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^^^(^A . \o.s ( I ) 











Harvard College 
Library 

FROM THK BEQUEST OF 

FRANCIS BROWTSI HAYES 

OF LEXINGTON, MASSACHUSETre 







THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END. 



Q 



THE WELL AT THE 

WORLD'S END A TALE 

BY WILLIAM MORRIS 



VOLUME I. 



LONGMANS, GREEN, AND CO. 
LONDON, NEW YORK, AND BOMBAY 

MDCCCXCVI 



^Si^'/./Q.S'Ci) 




(z-M 



CIIISWICK PRESS :— CHARLES WHITTINGHAM AND CO. 
TOOKS COURT, CHANCERY LANE, LONDON. 



.fli 






CONTENTS. 



BOOK I. THE ROAD UNTO LOVE. 



Chapter I. 

II. 

III. 

IV. 

V. 

VI. 

VII. 
VIII. 



IX. 
X. 

XI. 
XII. 

XUI. 
XIV. 

XV. 



XVI. 

XVII. 

XVIII. 

XIX. 

XX. 

XXI. 

XXII. 

XXIII. 

XXIV. 



PAGE 

The Sundering of the Ways i 

Ralph goeth back home to the High House 7 

Ralph Cometh to the Cheaping-Town . . 9 

Ralph rideth the Downs 20 

Ralph Cometh to Higham-on-the-Way . . 26 
Ralph goeth his ways from the Abbey of St. 

Mary at Higham 36 

The Maiden of Bourton Abbas .... 42 
Ralph Cometh to the Wood Perilous. An 

Adventure therein 48 

Another Adventure in the Wood Perilous . 52 
A Meeting and a Parting in the Wood 

Perilous 59 

Now must Ralph ride for it 63 

Ralph entereth into the Burg of the Fourth 

Friths 70 

The Streets of the Burg of the Four Friths 79 
What Ralph heard of the Matters of the 

Burg of the Four Friths 85 

How Ralph departed firom the Burg of the 

Four Friths 93 

Ralph rideth the Wood Perilous again . . 100 

Ralph Cometh to the House of Abundance . 103 

Of Ralph in the Castle of Abundance . . 108 
Ralph readeth in a Book concerning the 

Well at the World's End 121 

Ralph meeteth a Man in the Wood . . . 122 

Ralph weareth away Three Days uneasily . 1 29 

An Adventure in the Wood 1 34 

The Leechcraft of the Lady 143 

Supper and Slumber in the Woodland Hall 148 



BOOK II. THE ROAD UNTO TROUBLE. 

Chapter I. Ralph meets with Love in the Wilderness . 
II. They Break their Fast in the Wildwood . 

V 



>S9 
165 



Chapter III. 

IV. 

V. 

VI. 

VII. 



VIII. 

IX. 

X. 

XL 
XII. 

XIII. 



XIV. 

XV. 

XVI. 

XVII. 

XVIII. 

XIX. 

XX. 

XXI. 

XXII. 
XXIII. 
XXIV. 

XXV. 
XXVI. 

XXVII. 

XXVIII. 

XXIX. 

XXX. 

XXXI. 

XXXIl. 

XXXIII. 



PAGE 

The Lady telleth Ralph of the Past Days of 

her Life 169 

The Lady tells of her Deliverance . . . 177 

Yet more of the Lady's Story 187 

The Lady tells somewhat of her Doings after 

she left the Wilderness 190 

The Lady tells of the Strife and Trouble 
that befell after her coming to the 

Country of the King's Son . . . . 197 

The Lady maketh an End of Her Tale . 210 

They go on their Way once more . . . 217 
Of the Desert-House and the Chamber of 

Love in the Wilderness 222 

Ralph Cometh out of the Wilderness . . 231 
Ralph falleth in v^ith Friends and rideth to 

Whitwall 234 

Richard talketh with Ralph concerning the 
Well at the World's End. Concerning 

Swevenham 237 

Ralph falleth in with another Old Friend . 244 

Ralph dreams a Dream or sees a Vision . 247 

Of the Tales of Swevenham 250 

Richard bringeth Tidings of Departing . . 255 
Ralph departeth from Whitwall with the 

Fellowship of Clement Chapman . . 259 
Master Clement tells Ralph concerning the 

Lands whereunto they were riding. . 261 
They come to the Mid-Mountain Guest- 

House t ' ' 265 

A Battle in the Mountains 270 

Ralph talks with Bull Shockhead . . . 277 
Of the Town of Cheaping Knowe . . . 280 
Ralph heareth more Tidings of the Damsel 283 
The Fellowship comes to Whiteness . . 286 
They ride the Mountains towards Gold- 
burg 289 

Clement tells of Goldburg 294 

Now they come to Goldburg 296 

Of Goldburg and the Queen thereof . . 299 
Ralph hath Hope of Tidings concerning the 

Well at the World's End .... 306 

The beginning of the Road to Utterbol . 310 

Ralph happens on Evil Days 318 

Ralph is brought on the Road towards Utter- 
bol 328 

vi 



Chaffer XXXIV. 

XXXV. 

XXXVI. 

XXXVII. 

XXXVIII. 

XXXIX. 

XL. 

XLI. 



PAGE 

The Lord of Utterbol will wot of 

Ralph's Might and Minstrelsy . 332 
Ralph Cometh to the Vale of the 

Tower 341 

The Talk of Two Women concerning 

Ralph 348 

How Ralph justed with the Aliens . 355 
A Friend gives Ralph Warning . . 361 
The Lord of Utterbol makes Ralph a 

Free Man 367 

They ride toward Utterness from out 

of Vale Tunis 373 

Redhead keeps Tryst 374 



Vll 



THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END. 
BOOK I. THE ROAD UNTO LOVE. 

CHAPTER I. THE SUNDERING OF THE 
WAY& 

LONG ago there was a little land^ over which 
ruled a regulus or kinglet, who was called King 
Peter^ though his kingdom was but little. He 
had four sons whose names were Blaise, Hugh, 
Gregory and Ralph : of these Ralph was the youngest, 
whereas he was but of twenty winters and one ; and 
Blaise was the oldest and had seen thirty winters. 

Now it came to this at last, that to these young men 
the kingdom of their father seemed strait ; and they 
longed to see the ways of other men, and to strive for 
life. For though they were king's sons, they had but 
little world's w^th ; save and except good meat and 
drink, and enough or too much thereof; house-room 
of the best; friends to be merry with, and maidens to 
kissj and these also as good as might be; freedom 
withal to come and go as they would ; the heavens 
above them^ the earth to bear them up^ and the 
nrieadows and acres, the woods and fair stt'eams, and 
the little hills of Upmeads, for that was the name of 
their country and the kingdom of King Peter. 

So having nought but this little they longed for 
much ; and that the more because, king's sons as they 
were, they had but scant dominion save over their horses 
and dogs : for the men of that coimtry were stubborn 
md sturdy vavassors, and might not away with mas- 



terful doings, but were like to pay back a blow with 
a blow, and a foul word with a buffet. So that, all 
things considered, it was little wonder if King Peter's 
sons found themselves straitened in their little land : 
wherein was no great merchant city; no mighty 
castle, or noble abbey of monks : nought but fair 
little halls of yeomen, with here and there a frank- 
lin's court or a shield-knight's manor-house; with 
many a goodly church, and whiles a house of good 
canons, who knew not the road to Rome, nor how to 
find the door of the Chancellor's house. 

So these young men wearied their father and mo- 
ther a long while with telling them of their weariness, 
and their longing to be gone : till at last on a fair and 
hot afternoon of June King Peter rose up from the 
carpet which the Prior of St. John's by the Bridge 
had given him (for he had been sleeping thereon 
amidst the grass of his orchard after his dinner) and 
he went into the hall of his house, which was called 
the High House of Upmeads, and sent for his four 
sons to come to him. And they came and stood 
before his high-seat and he said: 

** Sons, ye have long wearied me with words con- 
cerning your longing for travel on the roads ; now if 
ye verily wish to be gone9 tell me when would ye 
take your departure if ye had your choice ? " 

They looked at one another, and the three younger 
ones nodded at Blaise the eldest : so he began, and 
said: ^^ Saving the love and honour that we have for 
thee, and also for our mother, we would be gone at 
once, even with the noon's meat still in our bellies. 
But thou art the lord in this land, and thou must 
rule. Have I said well, brethren ? " And they all 
said " Yea, yea." Then said the lung ; " Good 1 now 
is the sun high and hot ; yet if ye ride softly ye may 
come to some good harbour before nightfall without 
foundering your horses. So come ye in ap hour's 



space to the Four-want-way, and there and then ynh I 
order your departiue." 

The young men were full of joy when they heard 
his word ; and they departed and went this way and 
that, gathering such small matters as each deemed 
that he needed, and which he might lightly carry with 
him ; then they armed themselves, and would bid the 
squires bring them their horses ; but men told them 
that the said squires had gone their ways already to 
the Want- way by the king's commandment: so 
thither they went at once a-foot all four in company, 
laughing and talking together merrily. 

It must be told that this Want-way aforesaid was 
but four furlongs from the House, which lay in an 
ingle of the river called Upmeads Water amongst very 
fair meadows at the end of the upland tillage ; and the 
land sloped gently up toward the hill-country and the 
unseen mountains on the north ; but to the south was 
a low ridge which ran along the water, as it wound 
along from west to east. Beyond the said ridge, at a 
place whence you could see the higher hills to the 
south, that stretched mainly east and west also, there 
was presently an end of the Kingdom of Upmeads, 
though the neighboius on that side were peaceable 
and friendly, and were wont to send gifts to King 
Peter. But toward the north beyond the Want-way 
Kinj; Peter was lord over a good stretch of land, and 
that of the best ; yet was he never a rich man, for he 
had no freedom to tax and t^l his folk, nor forsooth 
would he have used it if he had ; for he was no ill man, 
but kindly and of measure. On these northern 
marches there was war at whiles, whereas they ended 
in a great forest well furnished of trees; and this 
wood was debateable, and King Peter and his sons 
rode therein at their peril : but great plenty was therein 
of all wild deer, as hart, and buck, and roe, and swine, 
and bears and wolves withal. The lord on the other 



• ^ 



side thereof was a mightier man than King Peter, 
albeit he was a bishop, and a baron of Holy Church. 
To say sooth he was a close-fist and a manslayer; 
though he (Ud his manslaying through his vicars, the 
knights and men-at-arms who held their manors of him, 
or whom he waged. 

In that forest had King Peter's father died in battle, 
and his eldest son also; therefore, being a man of 
peace, he rode therein but seldom, though his sons, 
the three eldest of them, had both riden therein and 
ran therefrom valiantly. As for Ralph the youngest, 
his father would not have him ride the Wood Debate- 
able as yet 

So came those young men to the Want-ways, and 
found their father sitting there on a heap of stones, 
and over against him eight horses, four destriers, and 
four hackneys, and four squires withal. So they came 
and stood before their father, waiting for his word, 
and wondering what it would be. 

Now spake King Peter : ** Fair sons, ye would go 
on all adventure to seek a wider land, and a more stir- 
ring life than ye may get of me at home : so be it ! 
But I have bethought me, that, since I am growing 
old and past the age of getting children, one of you, 
my sons, must abide at home to cherish me and your 
' mother, and to lead our carles in war if trouble falleth 
upon us. Now I know not how to choose by mine 
own wit which of you shall ride and which abide. 
For so it is that ye are diverse of your conditions ; 
but the evil conditions which one of you lacks the 
other hath, and the valiancy which one hath, the other 
lacks. Blaise is wise and prudent, but no great man 
of his hands. Hugh is a stout rider and lifter, but 
headstrong and foolhardy, and over bounteous a 
skinker ; and Gregory is courteous and many worded, 
but sluggish in deed; though I will not call him a 
dadtard. As for Ralph, he is fair to look on, and 

4 



peradventure he may be as wise as Blaise^ as valiant 
as Hugh, and as smcx>th-tongued as Gregory ; but of 
all this we know little or nothing, whereas he is but 
young and untried. Yet may he do better than you 
others, and I deem that he will do so. All things 
con^dered, then, I say, I know not how to choose be- 
tween you, my sons ; so let luck choose for me, and 
ye shall draw cuts for your roads ; and he that draweth 
longest shall go north, and the next longest shall go 
east, and the third straw shall send the drawer west ; 
but as to him who draweth the shortest cut, he shall 
go no whither but back again to my house, there to 
abide with me the chances and changes of life ; and it 
is most like that this one shall sit in my chair when I 
am gone, and be called King of Upmeads. 

*' Now, my sons, doth this ordinance please you ? 
For if so be it doth not, then may ye all abide at 
home, and eat of my meat, and drink of my cup, but 
little chided either for sloth or misdoing, even as it 
hath been aforetime." 

The young men looked at one another, and Blaise 
answered and said : " Sir, as for me I say we will do 
after your commandment, to take what road luck 
may show us, or to turn back home again.'' They all 
yeasaid this one after the other ; and then King Peter 
said : ^^ Now before I draw the cuts, I shall tell you 
that I have appointed the squires to go with each one 
of you. Richard the Red shall go with Blaise ; for 
though he be somewhat stricken in years, and wise, 
yet is he a fierce carle and a doughty, and knoweth 
well all feats of arms. 

^^ Lancelot Longtongue shall be squire to Hugh ; 
for he is good of seeming and can dl courtesy, and 
knoweth logic (though it be of the law and not of the 
schools), yet is he a proper man of his hands; as 
needs must he be who followeth Hugh ; for where is 
Hugh, there is trouble and debate. 

5 



** Clement the Black shall serve Gregory : for he is 
a careful carle, and speaketh one word to every ten 
deeds that he doeth ; whether they be done with point 
and edge, or with the hammer in the stithy. 
. ** Lastly, I have none left to follow thee, Ralph, 
save Nicholas Long-shanks; but though he hath 
more words than I have, yet hath he more wisdom, 
and is a man lettered and far-travelled, and loveth our 
house right well. 

*' How say ye, sons, is this to your liking ? " 

They all said " yea." Then quoth the king ; 
" Nicholas, bring hither the straws ready dight, and I 
will give them my sons to draw." 

So each young man came up in turn and drew ; and 
King Peter kid the straws together and looked at 
them, and said : 

^ Thus it is, Hugh goeth north with Lancelot ; 
Gregory westward with Clement." Hestayed a moment 
and then said : ^^ Blaise fareth eastward and Richard 
with him. As for thee, Ralph my dear son, thou 
shalt back with me and abide in my house and I shall 
see thee day by day ; and thou shalt help me to live 
my last years happily in all honour; and thy love 
shall be my hope, and thy valiancy my stay." 

Therewith he arose and threw his arm about the 
young man*s neck ; but he shrank away a little from 
his father, and his face grew troubled ; and King Peter 
noted that, and his countenance fell, and he said : 

" Nay nay, my son ; grudge not thy brethren the 
chances of the road, and the ill-hap of the battle. 
Here at least for thee is the boimteous board and the 
full cup, and the love of kindred and well-willers, and 
the fellowship of the folk. O well is thee, my son, 
and happy shalt thou be ! " 

But the young man knit his brows and said no 
word in answer. 

Then came forward those three brethren who were 

6 



to fare at all adventure, and thev stood before the old 
man saying nought. Then he laughed and said : ^^ O 
ho, my sons ! Here in Upmeads have ye all ye need 
without money, but when ye fare in the outlands ye 
need money ; is it not a lack of yours that your pouches 
be bare ? Abide, for I have seen to it/' 

Therewith he drew out of his pouch three little bags, 
and said ; ** Take ye each one of these ; for therein 
is all that my treasury may shed as now. In each of 
these is there coined money, both white and red, and 
some deal of gold uncoined, and of rings and brooches 
a few, and by estimation there is in each bag the same 
value reckoned in lawful silver of Upmeads and the 
Wolds and the Overhill-Countries. Take ye each 
what there is, and do the best ye may therewith." 

Then each took his bag, and kissed and embraced 
his father ; and they kissed Ralph and each other, and 
so got to horse and departed with their squires, going 
sofdy because of the hot sun. But Nicholas slowly 
mounted his hackney and led Ralph's war-horse with 
him home again to King Peter's House. 

CHAPTER II. RALPH GOETH BACK 
HOME TO THE HIGH HOUSK 

RALPH and King Peter walked slowly home 
together, and as they went King Peter fell to 
telling of how in his young days he rode in 
the Wood Debateable, and was belated there all alone, 
and happed upon men who were outlaws and wolf- 
heads, and feared for his life ; but they treated him 
kindly, and honoured him, and saw him safe on his 
way in the morning. So that never thereafter would 
he be art and part with those who hunted outlaws to 
slay them. **For," said he, **it is with these men as 
with others, that they make prey of folk ; yet these 
for the more part prey on the rich, and the lawful 

7 



prey on the poor. Otherwise it is with diese wolf- 
heads, as with lords and knights and franldins, that as 
there be bad amongst them, so also there be good ; 
and the good ones I happed on, and so may another 



man." 



Hereto paid Ralph little heed at that time, since he 
had heard the tale and its morality before, and that 
more than once ; and moreover his mind was set upon 
his own matters, and these was he pondering. Albeit 
perchance the words abode with him. So came they 
to the House, and Ralph's mother, who was a noble 
dame, and well-liking as for her years, which were 
but little over fifty, stood in the hall-door to see 
which of her sons should come back to her, and when 
she saw them coming together, she went up to them, 
and cast her arms about Ralph and kissed him and 
caressed him, — being exceeding glad that it was he 
and not one of the others who had returned to dwell 
with them ; fw he was her best-beloved, as was little 
marvel, seeing that he was by far the fairest and the 
most loving. But Ralph's face grew troubled again 
in his mother's arms, for he loved her exceeding well ; 
and forsooth he loved the whole house and all that 
dwelt there, down to the turnspit dogs in the chimney 
ingle, and the swallows that nested in the earthen 
bottles, which when he was little he had seen his 
mother put up in the eaves of the out-bowers : but 
now, love or no love, the spur was in his side, and he 
must needs hasten as fate would have him. However, 
when he had disentangled himself from his mother's 
caresses, he enforced himself to keep a cheerful coun- 
tenance, and upheld it the whole evening through, 
and was by seeming merry at supper, and went to bed 
singing. 



8 



CHAPTER III. RALPH COMETH TO THE 
CHEAPING-TOWN. 

HE skpt in an upper chamber in a turret of the 
House^ which chamber was his own^ and none 
might meddle with it. There the next day 
he awoke in the dawning, and arose and clad himself, 
and took his war-gear and his sword and spear, and 
bore all away without doors to the side of the Ford in 
that ingle of the river, and laid it for a while in a 
little willow copse, so that no chance-comer might see 
it ; then he went back to the stable of the House and 
took his destrier from the stall (it was a dapple-grey 
horse called Falcon, and was right good,) and brought 
him down to the said willow copse, and tied him to 
a tree till he had armed himself amongst the willows, 
whence he came forth presently as brisk-looking and 
likely a man-at-arms as you might see on a summer day. 
Then he clomb up into the saddle, and went his ways 
splashing across the ford, before the sun had arisen, 
while the throstle-cocks were yet amidst their first 
song. 

Then he rode on a little trot south away; and by 
then the sun was up he was without the bounds of 
Upmeads; albeit in the land thereabout dwelt none 
who were not friends to King Peter and his sons: 
and that was well, for now were folk stirring and 
were abroad in the fields ; as a band of carles going 
with their scythes to the hay-field; or a maiden 
with her milking-pails going to her kine, barefoot 
through the seeding grass; or a company of noisy 
little lads on their way to the nearest pool of the 
stream that they might bathe in the warm morning 
after the warm night. All these and more knew him 
and his armour and Falcon his horse^ and gave him 
the sele of the day^ and he was nowise troubled 9,t 
meetisig them; for besi4e$ thM t^,ey^ ^ught it no 

9 



wonder to meet one of the lords of Upmeads going 
armed about his errands, their own errands were close 
at home, and it was little likely that they should go 
that day so far as to Upmeads Water, seeing that it ran 
through the meadows a half-score miles to the north- 
ward. 

So Ralph rode on, and came into the high road, 
that led one way back again into Upmeads, and 
crossed the Water by a fair bridge late builded between 
King Peter and a house of Canons on the north side, 
and the other way into a ^x)d cheaping-town hight 
Wulstead, beyond which Ralph knew little of the 
world which lay to the south, and seemed to him a 
wondrous place, full of fair things and marveUous 
adventures. 

So he rode till he came into the town when the fair 
morning was still young, the first mass over, and 
maids gathered about the fountain amidst the market- 
place, and two or three dames sitting under the butter- 
cross. Ralph rode str^ght up to the house of a man 
whom he knew, and had often given him guesting 
there, and he himself was not seldom seen in the High 
House of Upmeads. This man was a merchant, 
who went and came betwixt men's houses, and bought 
and sold many things needful and pleasant to folk, 
and King Peter dealt with him much and often. 
Now he stood in the door of his house, which was 
new and goodly, sniffing the sweet scents which the 
morning wind bore into the town ; he was clad in a 
goodly long gown of grey welted with silver, of 
thin cloth meet for the summer-tide: for little he 
wrought with his hands, but much with his tongue ; 
he was a man of forty summers, ruddy-faced and 
black-bearded, and he was called Clement Chapman. 

When he saw Ralph he smiled kindly on him, and 
came and held his stirrup as he lighted down, and 
said : ^' Welcome, lord ! Art thou come to give me 

10 



a message, and eat and drink in a poor huckster's 
house, and thou armed so gallantly ? " 

Ralph laughed merrily. For he was hungry, and he 
said : ^' Yea, I will eat and drink with thee and kiss 
my gossip, and go my ways." 

Therewith the carle led him into the house ; and if 
it were goodly without, within it was better. For 
there was a fair chamber panelled with wainscot well 
carven, and a cupboard of no sorry vessels of silver 
and latten : the chairs and stools as fair as might be ; 
no king's might be better : the windows were glazed, 
and there were flowers and knots and posies in them ; 
and the bed was hung with goodly web from over sea 
such as the soldan useth. Also, whereas the chap- 
man's ware-bowers were hard by the chamber, there 
was a pleasant mingled smell therefrom floating about. 
The table was set with meat and drink and vessel of 
pewter and earth, all fair and good ; and thereby stood 
the chapman's wife, a very goodly woman of two-score 
years, who had held Ralph at the font when she was 
a slim damsel new wedded ; for she was come of no 
mean kindred of the Kingdom of Upmeads : her name 
was Dame Katherine. 

Now she kissed Ralph's cheek friendly, and said : 
*' Welcome, gossip ! thou art here in good time to 
break thy ^t ; and we will give thee a trim dinner 
thereafter, when thou hast been here and there in the 
town and done thine errand; and then shalt thou 
drink a cup and sing me a song, and so home again in 
the cool of the evening/' 

Ralph seemed a litue troubled at her word, and he 
said : ^^Nay, gossip, though I thank thee for all these 
good things as though I had them, yet must I ride 
away south straightway after I have breakfasted, 
and said one word to the goodman. Goodman, 
how call ye the next town southward, and how far 
is it thither ? " 

II 



Quoth Clement : ^^ My son, what hast thou to do 
with riding south? As thou wottest, going hence 
south ye must presently ride the hill-country; and 
that is no safe journey for a lonely man, even if he be 
a doughty knight like to thee, lord/' 

Said Ralph, reddening withal : *^ I have an errand 
that way/* 

" An errand of King Peter's or thine own ? " said 
Clement. 

** Of King Peter's, if ye must wot," said Ralph. 

Clement were no chapman had he not seen that the 
lad was lying ; so he said : 

** Fair lord, saving your worship, how would it be 
as to the speeding of King Peter's errand, if I brought 
thee before our mayor, and swore the peace against 
thee ; so that I might keep thee in courteous prison 
till I had sent to thy father of thy whereabouts ? " 

The young man turned red with anger ; but ere he 
could speak Dame Katherine said sharply : ^^ Hold 
thy peace, Clement ! What hast thou to meddle or 
make in the matter ? If our young lord hath will to 
ride out and see the world, why should we let him ? 
Yea, why should his father let him, if it come to that ? 
Take my word for it that my gossip shall go through 
the world and come back to those that love him, as 
goodly as he went forth. And hold ! here is for a 
token thereof/' 

Therewith she went to an ark that stood in the 
comer, and groped in the till thereof and brought out 
a little necklace of blue and green stones with gold 
knops betwixt, like a psur of beads ; albeit neither pope 
nor priest had blessea them ; and tied to the necklace 
was a little box of gold with something hidden therein. 
This gaud she gave to Ralph, and said to him : 
«< Gos^p, wear this about thy neck, and let no man 
take it from thee, and I think it will be saljration to 
thee in peril, and good luck to thee in the time of 

12 



questing ; so that it shall be to thee as if thou hadst 
drunk of the WELL AT THE WORLD'S END." 

** What is that water ? " said Ralph, " and how may 
I find it?" 

" I know not rightly," she s^d> " but if a body 
might come by it, I hear say that it saveth from 
weariness and wounding and sickness ; and it winneth 
love from all, and maybe life everlasting. Hast thou 
not heard tell of it, my husband ? " 

" Yea,*' said the chapman, '* many times ; and how 
that whoso hath drunk thereof hath the tongue that 
none may withstand, whether in buying or selling, or 
prevailing over the hearts of men in any wise. But 
as for its whereabouts, ye shall not find it in these 
parts. Men say that it is beyond the Dry Tree ; and 
that is afar, God wot ! But now, lord Ralph, I rede 
thee go back again this evening with Andrew, my 
nephew, for company : forsooth, he will do little less 
gainful than riding with thee to Upmeads than if he 
abide in Wulstead ; for he is idle. But, my lord, take 
it not amiss that I spake about the mayor and the tip- 
staves; for it was but a jest, as thou mayest well 
wot." 

Ralph's face cleared at that word, and he stood 
smiling, weighing the chaplet in his hand ; but Dame 
Katherine said : 

^ Dear gossip, do it on speedily ; for it is a gift 
from me unto thee : and from a gossip even king's 
sons may take a gift." 

Quoth Ralph ; ^' But is it lawful to wear it ? is there 
no wizardry within it ? " 

^ Hearken to him ! " she said, ^^ and how like unto 
a man he speaketh ; if there were a brawl in the 
street, he would strike in and ask no word thereof, 
not even which were the better side : whereas here is 
my ^co9-chick frighted at a little gold box and a 
pair of Saracen beads." 

'3 



« Well/' quoth Ralph, " the first holy man I meet 
shall bless them for me." 

" That shall he not," said the dame, " that shall he 
not. Who wotteth what shall betide to thee or me if 
he do so ? Come, do them on, and then to table ! 
For seest thou not that the goodman is wearying for 
meat ? and even thine eyes will shine the brighter for 
a mouthful, king's son and gossip." 

She took him by the hand and did the beads on his 
neck, and kissed and fondled him before he sat down, 
while the goodman looked on, grinning rather sheep- 
ishly, but said nought to them ; and only called on his 
boy to lead the destrier to stable. So when they were 
set down, the chapman took up the word where it had 
been dropped, and said : '^ So, Lord Ralph, thou 
must needs take to adventures, being, as thou deemest, 
full grown. That is all one as the duck taketh to 
water despite of the hen that hath hatched her. Well, 
it was not to be thought that Upmeads would hold 
you lords much longer. Or what is gone with my 
lords your brethren ? ' 

Said Ralph : '^ They have departed at all adventure, 
north, east, and west, each bearing our father's bless- 
ing and a bag of pennies. And to speak the truth, 
goodman, for I perceive I am no doctor at lying, my 
rather and mother would have me stay at home when 
my brethren were gone, and that liketh me not; 
therefore am I come out to seek my luck in the 
world : for Upmeads is good for a star-gazer, maybe, 
or a simpler, or a priest, or a worthy good carle of 
the fields, but not for a king's son with the blood run- 
ning hot in his veins. Or what sayest thou, gossip ? " 

Quoth the dame : ** I could weep for thy mother ; 
but for thee nought at all. It is good that thou 
shouldest do thy will in the season of youth and the 
days of thy pleasure. Yea, and I deem that thou 
shalt come back ag^n great and worshipful ; and I am 

H 



called somewhat foreseeing. Only look to it that thou 
keep the pretty thing that I have just given thee/* 

^' Well," said the chapman, ^^ this is fine talk about 
pleasure and the doing of one's will ; nevertheless a 
whole skin is good wares, though it be not to be 
cheapened in any market of the world. Now, lord, 
go thou where thou wilt, whether I say go or abide ; 
and forsooth I am no man of King Peter's, that I 
should stay thee. As for the name of the next town, 
it is called Higham-on-the-Way, and is a big town 
plenteous of victuals, with strong walls and a casde, 
and a very rich abbey of monks : and there is peace 
within its walls, because the father abbot wages a 
many men to guard him and his, and to uphold his 
rights against 3\[ comers ; wherein he doth wisely, and 
also well. For much folk flocketh to his town and 
live well therein ; and there is great recourse of chap- 
men thither. No better market is there betwixt this 
and Babylon. Well, Sir Ralph, I rede thee if thou 
comest unhurt to Higham-on-the-Way, go no further 
for this time, but take service with the lord abbot, 
and be one of his men of war; thou may'st then 
become his captain if thou shouldest live; which 
would be no bad adventure for one who cometh from 
Upmeads." 

Ralph looked no brighter for this word, and he 
answered nought to it : but said presently: 

'^ And what is to be looked for beyond Higham if 
one goeth further? Dost thou know the land any 
further ? " 

The carle smiled : ^' Yea forsooth, and down to the 
Wood Perilous, and beyond it, and the lands beyond 
the Wood ; and far away through them. I say not 
that I have been to the Dry Tree ; but I have spoken 
to one who hath heard of him who hath seen it; 
though he might not come by a draught of the Well 
at the World's End." 

15 



Ralph's eyes flashed, and his cheeks reddened as he 
listened hereto: but he spake quietly: 

^^ Master Clement, how hr dost thou make it to 
Higham-on-the-Way ? " 

^* A matter of forty miles/* said the Chapman ; " be- 
cause, as thou wottest, if ye ride south from hence, 
ye shall presently bring your nose up against the big 
downs, and must needs climb them at once ; and when 
ye are at the top of Bear Hill, and look south away, 
ye shall see nought but downs on downs with never a 
road to call a road, and never a castle, or church, or 
homestead: nought but some shepherd's hut; or at 
the most the little house of a holy man with a little 
chapel thereby in some swelly of the chalk, where the 
water hath trickled into a pool; for otherwise the 
place is waterless." Therewith he took a long pull at 
the tankard by his side, and went on: 

^' Higham is beyond all that, and out into the fer- 
tile plam ; and a little river hight Coldlake windeth 
about the meadows there ; and it is a fair land ; though 
look you the wool of the downs is good, good, good ! 
I have foison of this year's fleeces with me. Ye shall 
raise none such in Upmeads." 

Ralph sat silent a little, as if pondering, and then 
he started up and said: '^Good master Clement, we 
have eaten thy meat and thank thee for that and other 
matters. Wilt thou now be kinder, and bid thy boy 
bring round Falcon our horse ; for we have far to go, 
and must bfegone straight-away." 

** Yea, lord," said Clement, "even so will I do." And 
he muttered imder his breath ; ^ Thou talkest big, my 
lad, with thy * we'; but thou art pressed lest Nicholas 
be here presently to fetch thee back ; and to say sooth 
I would his hand were on thy shoulder even now." 

Then he spake aloud again, and said: 

" I must now begone to my lads, and I will send 
one round with thy war-horse. But take my rede, 

l6 



my lord, and become the man of the Abbot of St. 
Mary's of Highaili, and all will be well." 

Therewith he edged himself out of the chamber, 
and the dame fell to making a mighty clatter with the 
vessel and trenchers and cups on the board, while 
Ralph walked up and down the chamber his war-gear 
jingling upon him. Presently the dame left her table- 
clatter and came up to Ralph and looked kindly into 
his face and said: ^^ Gossip, hast thou perchance any 
money ? " 

He flushed up red, and then his face fell ; yet he 
spake gaily : ^ Yea, gossip, I have both white and red : 
there are three golden crowns in my pouch, and a little 
flock of silver pennies : forsooth I say not as many as 
would reach from here to Upmeads, if they were laid 
one after the other." 

She smiled and patted his cheek, and said: 

*^ Thou art no very prudent child, king's son. But 
it comes into my mind that my master did not mean 
thee to go away empty-handed; else had he not de- 
parted and left us twain together." 

Therewith she went to the credence that stood in a 
corner, and opened a drawer therein and took out a 
little bag, and eave it into Ralph's hand, and said: 
*^ This is the gi^ of the gossip ; and thou mayst take 
it without shame ; all the more because if thy father 
had been a worser man, and a harder lord he would 
have had more to ^ve thee. But now thou hast as 
much or more as any one of thy brethren." 

He took the bag smiling and shame-faced, but she 
looked on him fondly and said: 

^^ Now I know not whether I shall lay old Nicholas 
on thine heels when he cometh after thee, as come he 
will full surely ; or whether I shall suffer the old sleuth- 
hound nose out thy slot of himself, as full surely he 
will get on to it." 

^ Thou mightest tell him," said Ralph, ** that I am 

17 9 



gone to take service with the Abbot of St Mary's 
of Higham : hah ? '* 

She laughed and said: '* Wilt thou do so, lord, and 
follow the rede of that goodman of mine, who thinketh 
himself as wise as Solomon ? " 

Ralph smiled and answered her nothing. 

" Well," she said, " I shall say what likes me when 
the hour is at hand. Lo, here ! thine horse. Abide 
yet a moment of time, and then go whither thou needs 
must, like the wind of the summer day." 

Therewith she went out of the chamber and came 
back again with a scrip which she gave to Ralph and 
said : ^^ Herein is a flask of drink for the waterless 
country, and a little meat for the way. Fare thee 
well, gossip ! Little did I look for it when I rose up 
this morning and nothing irked me save the dulness 
of our town, and the littleness of men's doings therein, 
that I should have to cut off a piece of my life from 
me this morning, and say, farewell gossip, as now again 
I do." 

Therewith she kissed him on either cheek and em- 
braced him; and it might be said of her and him that 
she let him go thereafter ; for though as aforesaid he 
loved her, and praised her kindness, he scarce under- 
stood the eagerness of her love for him ; whereas more- 
over she saw him not so often betwixt Upmeads and 
Wulstead : and belike she herself scarce understood it. 
Albeit she was a childless woman. 

So when he had got to horse, she watched him 
riding a moment, and saw how he waved his hand to 
her as he turned the corner of the market-place, and 
how a knot of lads and lasses stood staring on him 
after she lost sight of him. Then she turned her back 
into the chamber and laid her head on the table and 
wept. Then came in the goodman quietly and stood 
by her and she heeded him not He stood grin- 
ning curiously on her awhile, and th^n laid his hand 

i8 



on her shoulder, and said as she raised her face to 
him: 

" Sweetheart, it availeth nought ; when thou wert 
young and exceeding fair, he was but a little babe, 
and thou wert looking in those days to have babes of 
thine own ; and then it was too soon : and now that 
he is such a beauteous young man, and a king's son 
withal, and thou art wedded to a careful carle of no 
weak heart, and thou thyself art more than two-score 
years old, it is too late. Yet thou didst well to give 
our lord the money. Lo ! here is wherewithal to fill 
up the lack in thy chest ; and here is a toy for thee in 
place of the pair of beads thou gavest him ; and I bid 
thee look on it as if I had given him my share of the 
money and the beads." 

She turned to Clement, and took the bag of money, 
and the chaplet which he held out to her, and she 
said: ** God wot thou art no ill man, my husband, but 
would God I had a son like to him ! " 

She still wept somewhat ; but the chapman said : 
** Let it rest there, sweetheart ! let it rest there ! It 
may be a year or tw^n before thou seest him again : 
and then belike he shall be come back with some 
woman whom he loves better than any other; and 
who knows but in a way he may deem himself our 
son. Meanwhile thou hast done well, sweetheart, so 
be glad." 

Therewith he kissed her and went his ways to his 
merchandize, and she to the ordering of her house, 
grieved but not unhappy. 



^9 



CHAPTER IV. RALPH RIDETH THE 
DOWNS. 

AS for Ralph, he rode on with a merry heart, and 
presently came to an end of the plain country, 
and the great downs rose up before him with a 
white road winding up to the top of them. Just 
before the slopes began to rise was a little thorp beside 
a stream, and thereby a fair church and a little house 
of Canons : so Ralph rode toward the church to see 
if therein were an altar of St. Nicholas, who was his 
c;ood lord and patron, that he might ask of him a 
blessing on his journey. But as he came up to the 
churchyard-gate he saw a great black |;^orse tied thereto 
as if abiding some one; and as he lighted down from 
his saddle he saw a man coming hastily from out the 
church-door and striding swiftly toward the said gate. 
He was a big man, and armed ; for he had a bright 
steel sallet on his head, which covered his face all save 
the end of his chin ; and plates he had on his legs and 
arms. He wore a green coat over his armour, and 
thereon was wrought in gold an image of a tree leaf- 
less : he had a little steel axe about his neck, and a 
great sword hung by his side. Ralph stood looking 
on him with his hand on the latch of the gate, but 
when the man came thereto he tore it open roughly 
and shoved through at once, driving Ralph back, so 
that he well-nigh overset him, and so sprang to his 
horse and swung hini3elf into the saddle, just as Ralph 
steadied himseltand ruffled up to him, half drawing his 
sword from the scabbard the while. But the man-at- 
arms cried out, *' Put it back, put it back ! If thou 
must needs deal with every man that shoveth thee in 
his haste, thy life is like to be but short." 

He was settling himself in his saddle as he spoke, 
and now he shook his rein, and rode off speedily 
toward the hill-road. But when he was so far off that 



Ralph might but see his face but as a piece of reddish 
colour, he reined up for a moment of time, and timiing 
roimd in his saddle lifted up his sallet and left his face 
bare, and cried out as if to Ralph, ** The first time ! " 
And then let the head-piece fall ag^n, and set spurs 
to his horse and gallopped away. 

Ralph stood looking at him as he got smaller on 
the long white road, and wondering what this mi^ht 
mean, and how the unknown man should know him, 
if he did know him. But presently he let his wonder 
run off him, and went his ways into the church, 
wherein he found his good lord and friend St. Nicho- 
las, and so said a paternoster before his altar, and 
besought his help, and made his offering; and then 
departed and gat to horse again, and rode softly the 
way to the downs, for the day was hot. 

The way was steep and winding, with a hollow cup 
of the hills below it, and above it a bent so steep that 
Ralph could see but a few yards of it on his left h^nd ; 
but when he came to the hill's brow and could look 
down on the ssud bent, he saw strange figures on the 
hot thereof, done by cutting away the turf so that 
the chalk might show clear. A tree with leaves was 
done on that hill-side, and on either hand of it a beast 
like a bear ramping up against the tree; and these 
signs were very ancient. This hill-side carving could 
not be seen from the thorp beneath, which was called 
Netherton, because the bent looked westward down 
into the hollow of the hill abovesaid ; but fix)m nigher 
to Wulstead they were clear to see, and Ralph had 
often beheld them, but never so nigh : and that hill 
was called after them Bear Hill. At the top of it was 
an earth- work of the ancient folk, which also was 
called Bear Castle. And now Ralph rode over the 
hill's brow into it ; for the walls had oeen beaten down 
in places long and long ago. 

Now he rode up the wall, and at the topmost of it 

21 



turned and looked aback on the blue country which 
he had ridden through stretching many a league 
below^ and tried if he could pick out Upmeads from 
amongst the diverse wealth of the summer land : but 
Upmeads Water was hidden, and he could see nothing 
to be sure of to tell him whereabouts the High House 
stood ; yet he deemed that he could make out the 
Debateable Wood and the hills behind it well enough. 
Then he turned his horse about, and had the down- 
country before him; long lines of hills to wit, one 
rising behind the other like the waves of a somewhat 
quiet sea : no trees thereon, nor houses that he might 
see thence : nought but a green road that went waving 
up and down before him greener than the main face of 
the slopes. 

He looked at it all for a minute or two as the 
south-west wind went past his ears, and played a 
strange tune on the innumerable stems of the bents 
and the hard-stalked blossoms, to which the bees sang 
counterpoint. Then the heart arose within him, and 
he drew the sword from the scabbard, and waved it 
about his head, and shook it toward the south, and 
cried out, " Now, welcome world, and be thou blessed 
from one end to the other, from the ocean sea to the 
uttermost mountains!" 

A while he held the white steel in his fist, and then 
sheathed the blade, and rode down soberly over the 
turf bridge across the ancient fosse, and so came on to 
the green road made many ages before by an ancient 
people, and so trotted south along fsiir and softly. 

Little is to be told of his journey through the 
downs : as he topped a low hill whereon were seven 
grave-mounds of the ancient folk in a row, he came 
on a shepherd lying amidst of his sheep : the man 
sprang to his feet when he heard horse-hoofs anigh 
him and saw the glint of steel, and he set his hand to 
a short spear which lay by him; but when he saw 

22 



nought but Ralph, and heard how he gave him the 
sele of the day, he nodded his head in a friendly way, 
though he said nought in salutation; for the loneliness 
of the downs made the speech slow within him. 

Again some two miles further on Ralph met a flock 
of sheep coming down a bent which the road climbed, 
and with them were three men, their drovers, and 
they drew nigh him as he was amidst of the sheep, so 
that he could scarce see the way. Each of these three 
had a weapon ; one a pole-axe, another a long spear, 
and the third a flail jointed and bound with iron, and 
an anlace hanging at his girdle. So they stood in the 
way and h^ed him when the sheep were gone past ; 
and the man with the spear asked him whither away. 
^I am turned toward Higham-on-the-Way," quoth 
he; ''and how many miles shall I ride ere I get 
there ?" 

Said one of them : " Little less than twenty, lord." 
Now it was past noon two hours, and the day was hot ; 
so whereas the ^es of the men looked kind and 
friendly, albeit somewhat rugged, he lighted down 
from his horse and sat down by the way-side, and 
drew his bottle of good wine from out of his wallet, 
and asked the men if they were in haste. '' Nay, 
master," said he of the pole-axe, while all eyes turned 
to the bottle, ''HE has gone by too long ; and will 
neither meddle with us, nor may we deal with him." 

"Well then," quoth Rdph, "there is time for 
bever. Have ye ought of a cup, that we may drink 
to each other?" 

"Yea," said the carle with the anlace, *' that have 
I." Therewith he drew from his pouch a ram's horn 
rimmed with silver, and held it up, and said as if 
he were speaking to it : " Now, Thirly, rejoice ! for 
ye shall have lord's wine poured into thy maw." 

Therewith he held it out toward Ralph, who laughed 
and filled it up, and filled for himself a little silver 

^3 



cup which he carried, and said : ^' To you, shepherds ! 
Much wool and litde cry ! " And he drank withal. 

** And I," quoth the man with the horn, ** call this 
health; Much cry and little wool ! " 

" Well, well, how mean ye by that. Greasy Wat ?" 
said the man with the spear, taking the horn as he 
spake; ^^that is but a poor wish for a lord that 
drinketh out of our cup." 

Said Wat: **Why, neighbour, why! thy wit is 
none too hasty. The wool that a knight sheareth is 
war and battle ; that is wounding and death ; but the 
cry is the talk and boasting and minstrelsy that goeth 
before all this. Which is the best wish to wish him ? 
the wounds and the death, or the fore-rumour and stir 
thereof which hurteth no man ? " 

Ralph laughed thereat, and was merry and blithe 
with them ; but the spearman, who was an old man, 
said: 

*' For all Wat sayeth, lord, and lus japes, ye must 
not misdeem of us that we shepherds or the Downs 
can do nought but run to ales and feasts, and that we 
are but pot-valiant : maybe thou thyself mayst live 
to see things go otherwise : and in that day may we 
have such as thee for captain. Now, fdr lord, I 
drink to thy crown of valour, and thy good luck ; 
and we thank thee for the wine and yet more for the 
blithe fellowship." 

So Ralph filled up the ram's horn till Dame Kathe- 
rine's good island wine was well-nigh spent ; and at 
last he said : 

" Now, my masters, I must to horse ; but I pray 
you tell or we depart, what did ye mean when ye 
said that HE had gone past f Who is HE ? " 

The merry faces of the men changed at his word, 
and they looked in each other's faces, till at last the 
old spearman answered him : 

^ Fur lord, these things we have little will to talk 

24 



about : for we be poor men with no master to fleece 
us, and no lord to help us : also we be folk unlearned 
and unlettered^ and from our way of life, whereas we 
dwell in the wilderness, we seldom come within the 
doors of a church. But whereas we have drunk with 
thee, who seemest to be a man of lineage, and thou 
•hast been blithe with us, we will tell thee that we have 
seen one riding south along the Greenway, clad in a 
coat as green as the way, with the leafless tree done on 
his breast So nigh to him we were that we heard 
his cry as he sped along, as ye may hear the lapwing 
whining; for he said: * POINT AND EDGE, 
POINT AND EDGE! THE RED WATER 
AMIDST OF THE HILLS!' In my lifetime such 
a man hath, to my knowledge, been seen thrice 
before ; and after each sight of him followed evil 
days and the death of men. Moreover this is the 
Eve of St. John, and we deem the token the wcursc 
therefor. Or how deemest thou ? " 

Ralph stood silent awhile ; for he was thinking of 
the big man whom he had met at the churchyard 
gate, and all this tale seemed wonderful to him. But 
at last he said : 

^* I cannot tell what there is in it ; herein am I no 
help to you. To-day I am but little ; though I may 
one day be great. Yet this may I do for you ; to- 
morrow will I let sing a mass in St. Mary's Church on 
your behoof. And hereafter, if I wax as my will is, 
and I come to be lord in these lands, I will look to it 
to do what a good lord should do for the shepherds of 
the Downs, so that they may live well, and die in 
good hope. So may the Mother of God help me at 
need!" 

Said the old shepherd : ^' Thou hast sworn an oath, 
and it is a good oath, and well sworn. Now if thou 
dost as thou swearest, words can but little thanks, yet 
deeds may. Wherefore if ever thou comest back 

25 



Mther, and art in such need that a throng of men may 
help thee therein ; then let light a great fire upon each 
corner of the topmost wall of Bear Castle, and call to 
mind this watch-word: * SMITE ASIDE THE 
AXE, O BEAR-FATHER,' and then shalt thou 
see what shall betide thee for thy good-hap : farewell 
now, with the saints to dd ! " 

Ralph bade them live well and hail, and mounted 
his horse and rode off down the Greenway, and as he 
rode the shepherds waved their weapons to him in 
token of good- will. 



CHAPTER V. RALPH COMETH TO HIGH- 
AM-ON-THE-WAY. 

NOUGHT more befell Ralph to tell of till he 
came to the end of the Downs and saw 
Higham lying below him overlooked by a 
white castle on a knoll, and with a river lapping it 
about and winding on through its fair green meadows 
even as Clement had told. - From amidst its houses 
rose up three towers of churches above their leaden 
roofs, and high above all, long and great, the Abbey 
Church; and now was the low sun glittering on its 
gilded vanes and the wings of the angels high upon 
the battlements. 

So Ralph rode down the slopes and was brisk about 
it, for it was drawing toward sunset, and he knew not 
at what hour they shut their gates. The road was 
steep and winding, and it was the more part of an hour 
ere he came to the gate, which was open, and like to 
be yet, for many folk were thronging in, which throng 
also had hindered him soon after he came into the plain 
country. The gate was fair and strong, but Ralph 
saw no men-at-arms about it that evening. He rode 
into the street unquestioned, and therein was the 

26 



throng great of people clad in fair and gay attire ; and 
presently Ralph called to mind that this was St. John's 
Eve, so that he knew that there was some feast 
toward. 

At last the throng was so thick that he was stayed 
by it ; and therewithal a religious who was beside 
him and thrust up against his horse, turned to him 
and gave him good even, and said : " By thy weapons 
and gear thou art a stranger here in our burg, Sir 
Knight?" 

" So it is," said Ralph. 

" And whither away ? " said the monk ; '* hast thou 
some kinsman or friend in the town ? " 

** Nay," said Ralph, " I seek a good hostelry where 
I may abide the night for my money." 

The monk shook his head and said : '^ See ye the 
folk.^ It is holiday time, and midsummer after 
haysel. Ye shall scarce get lodging outside our 
house. But what then ? Come thou thither straight- 
way and have harbour of the best, and see our prior, 
who loveth young and brisk men-at-arms like to thee. 
Lo now ! the throng openeth a little ; I will walk by 
thy bridle and lead thee the shortest road thither." 

Ralph gainsaid him not, and they bored through 
the throng of the street till they came into the market- 
square, which was very great and clean, paved with 
stones all over : tall and fair houses rose up on three 
sides of it, and on the fourth was the Great Church 
which made those houses seem but low : most of it 
was new-built ; for the lord Abbot that then was, 
though he had not begun it, had taken the work up 
from his forerunner and had pushed it forward all he 
might ; for he was very rich, and an open-handed man. 
Like dark gold it showed under the evening sun, and 
the painted and gilded imagery shone like jewels 
upon it. 

^^Yea," s^d the monk, as he noted Ralph's 

^7 



wonder at this wonder ; ^^ a most goodly house it is, 
and happy shall they be that dwell there/' 

Therewith he led Ralph on, turning aside through 
the great square. Ralph saw that there were many 
folk therein, though it was too big to be thronged 
thick with them. Amidst of it was now a great pile 
of wood hung about with flowers, and hard by it a 
stage built up with hangings of rich cloth on one side 
thereof. He asked the monk what this might mean, 
and he told him the wood was for the Midsummer 
bale-fire, and the stage for the show that should come 
thereafter. So the brother led Ralph down a lane to 
the south of the great west door, and along the side of 
the minster and so came to the Abbey gate, and there 
was Ralph well greeted, and had all things given 
lum which were due to a good knight ; and then was 
he brought into the Guest-hall, a very fair chamber, 
which was now full of men of all degrees. He was 
shown to a seat on the dais within two of the sub- 
prior's, and beside him sat an honourable lord, a vassal 
of St. Mary's. So was supper served well and abun- 
dantly : the meat and drjink was of the best, and the 
vessel and all the plenishing was as good as might be ; 
and the walls of that chamber were hung with noble 
arras-cloth picturing the Pilgrimage of the Soul of Man. 

Every man there who spoke with Ralph, and 
they were many, was exceeding courteous to him; 
and he heard much talk about him of the wealth of 
the lands of St. Mary's at Higham, and how it was 
flourishing ; and of the Abbot how mighty he was, so 
that he might do what he would, and that his will was 
to help and to give, and be blithe with all men : and 
folk told of turmoil and war in other lands^ and praised 
the peace of Higham-on-the-Way. 

Ralph listened to all this, and smiled, and said to 
himself that to another man this might well be the 
end of his journey for that time ; but for him all this 

28 



peace and well-being was not enough ; for though it 
were a richer land than Upmeads, yet to the peace 
and the quiet he was well used, and he had come forth 
not for the winning of fatter peace, but to try what 
new thing his youth and his might and his high hope 
and his good hap might accomplish* 

So when the supper was over, and the wine and 
spices had been brought, the Guest-hall began to thin 
somewhat, and the brother who had brought Ralph 
thither came to him and said : 

*• Fair lord, it were nowise ill if ye went forth, as 
others of our guests have done, to see the deeds of 
Midsununer Eve that shall be done in the great square 
in honour of Holy John ; for our manner therein at 
Higham has been much thought of. Look my son ! " 

He pointed to the windows of the hall therewith, 
and lo ! they grew yellow and bright with some fire 
without, as if a new fiery day had been born out of 
the dusk of the summer night ; for the light that shone 
through the windows out-did the candle-light in the 
halL Ralph started thereat and laid his right hand to 
the place of his sword, which indeed he had left with 
the chamberlain; but the monk laughed and said: 
'^ Fear nothing, lord; there is no foeman in Higham: 
come now, lest thou be belated of the show/' 

So he Ic^ Ralph forth, and into the square, where 
there was a space appointed for the brethren and their 
guests to see the plays ; and the square was now so 
full of folk that it seemed like as if that there were no 
one man in the streets which were erewhile so thronged. 

There were rows of men-at-arms in bright armour 
also to keep the folk in their places, like as hurdles pen 
the sheep up; howbeit they were nowise rough with 
folk, but humble and courteous. Many and many 
were the torches and cressets burning steadily in the 
calm air, so that, as aforesaid, night was turned into 
4aiy. But on the scafibld aforesaid were standing 

09 



bright and gay figures, whose names or what they 
were Ralph had no time to ask. 

Now the bells began to clash from the great tower 
of the minster, and in a little while they had clashed 
themselves into order and rang clear and tuneably for 
a space ; and while they were ringing, lo ! those gay- 
clad people departed from the scaffold, and a canvas 
painted like a mountain-side, rocky and with caves 
therein, was drawn up at the back of it. Then came 
thereon one clad like a lung holding a fair maiden by 
the hand, and with him was a dame richly clad and 
with a crown on her head. So these two kissed the 
maiden, and lamented over her, and went their ways, 
and the maiden left alone sat down upon a rock and 
covered up her face and wept; and while Ralph 
wondered what this might mean, or what grieved the 
maiden, there came creeping, as it were from out of a 
cranny of the rocks, a worm huge-headed and covered 
over with scales that glittered in the torch-light. Then 
Ralph sprang up in his place, for he feared for the 
maiden that the worm would devour her: but the 
monk who sat by him pulled him down by the skirt, 
and laughed and said : ^' Sit still, lord ! for the cham- 
pion also has been provided." 

Then Ralph sat down again somewhat abashed and 
looked on ; yet was his heart in his mouth the while. 
And so while the maiden stood as one astonied before 
the worm, who gaped upon her with wide open mouth, 
there came forth from a cleft in the rocks a goodly 
knight who bore sUver, a red cross ; and he had his 
sword in his hand, and he fell upon the worm to smite 
him ; and the worm ramped up against him, and there 
was battle betwixt them, while the maiden knelt anigh 
with her hands clasped together. 

Then Ralph knew that this was a play of the fight 
of St. George with the worm ; so he sat silent till the 
champion had smitten off the worm's head and had 

30 



come to the ixudden and kissed and embraced her, and 
shown her the grisly head. Then presently came 
many folk on to the scaffold, to wit, the king and 
queen who were the father and mother of the maiden, 
and a bishop clad in very fair vestments, and knights 
withal; and they stood about St George and the 
maiden, and with them were minstrels who fell to 
playing upon harps and fiddles; while other some 
fell to singing a sweet song in honour of St. George, 
and the m^den delivered. 

So when it was all done, the monk said: '^This 
play is set forth by the men-at-arms of our lord 
Abbot, who have great devotion toward St. George, 
and he is their friend and their good lord. But here- 
after will be other plays, of wild men and their feast- 
ing in the woods in the Golden Age of the world ; 
and that is done by the scribes and the limners. And 
after that will be a pageant of St. Agnes ordered by 
the clothiers and the webbers, which be both many 
and deft in this good town. Albeit thou art a young 
man and hast ridden far to-day belike, and mayhap- 
pen thou wilt not be able to endure it : so it may be 
well to bring thee out of this throng straightway. 
Moreover I have bethought me, that there is much of 
what is presently to come which we shall see better 
from the minster roof, or even it may be from the 
tower : wilt thou come then ? " 

Ralph had liefer have sat there and seen all the plays 
to the end, for they seemed to him exceeding fair, and 
like Xo ravish the soul from the body ; howbeit, being 
shamefaced, he knew not how to gainsay the brother, 
who took him by the hand, and led him through the 
press to the west front of the minster, where on the 
north side was a little door in a nook. So they went 
up a stair therein a good way till they came into a 
gallery over the western door; and looking forth 
thence Ralph deemed that he could have seen a long 

3^ 



way had daylight been^ for it was higher than the tops 
of the highest houses. 

So there they abode a space looking down on the 
square and its throng, and the bells^ which had been 
ringing when they came up, now ceased a while. 
But presently there arose great shouts and clamour 
amongst the folk below, and they coidd see men with 
torches drawing near to the pile of wood, and then all 
of a sudden shot up from it a great spiring flame, and 
all the people shouted together, while the bells broke 
out again over their heads. 

Then the brother pointed aloof with his finger and 
said : " Lo you ! fair lord, how bale speaks to Dale all 
along the headlands of the down-country, and below 
there in the thorps by the river ! " 

Forsooth Ralph saw fire after fire break out to the 
westward; and the brother said: ^And if we stood 
over the high altar and looked east, ye would see 
more of such fires and many more ; and all these 
bales are piled up and lighted by vassals and villeins 
of my lord Abbot : now to-night they are but mere 
Midsummer bale-fires ; but doubt ye not that if there 
came war into the land each one of these bales would 
mean at least a half-score of stout men, archers and 
men-at-vms, all ready to serve their lord at all 
adventure. All this the tyrants round about, that hate 
holy Church and oppress the poor, know full well ; 
therefore we live in peace in these lands." 

Ralph hearkened, but said nought ; for amidst all 
this flashing of fire and flame, and the crying out of 
folk, and the measured clash of the bells so near him, 
his thought was confused, and he had no words ready 
to hand. But the monk turned from the parapet and 
looked him full in the face and said to him : 

** Thou art a fair young man, and strong, and of 

gentle blood as I deem ; and thou seemest to me to 
ave the lucky look in thine eyes: now I tell thee 

3a 



that if thou wert to take service with my lord thou 
shouldest never rue it Yea, why shouldest thou not 
wax in his service^ and become his Captain of Captains, 
which is an office meet for kings ?" 

Ralph looked on him, but answered nought, for he 
could not gather his thoughts for an answer ; and the 
brother said : ** Think of it, I bid thee, fair young 
lord ; and be sure that nowhere shalt thou have a 
better livelihood, not even wert thou a king's son ; 
for the children of my lord Abbot are such that none 
dareth to do them any displeasure ; neither is any 
overlord as good as is, Holy Church/' 

'^ Yea," said Ralph, *' doubdess thou sayest sooth ; 
yet I wot not that I am come forth to seek a master/' 

Said the brother : " Nay, do but see the lord Abbot, 
as thou mayst do to-morrow, if thou wilt/' 

'^ I would have his blessing," said Ralph. 

'^ No less shalt thou have, ' said the brother ; '^ but 
look you down yonder ; for I can see tokens that my 
lord is even now coming forth/' 

Ralph looked down and beheld the folk parting to 
right and left, and a lane made amidst the throng, 
guarded by men-at-arms mingled with the cross- 
bearers and brethren; and the soimd of tnunpets 
blared forth over the noises of the throng. 

** If the lord Abbot cometh," said Ralph, *' I were 
fain of his blessing to-night before I sleep : so go we 
down straightway that I may kneel before him with 
the rest/' 

" What ! " said the monk, " Wilt thou, my lord, 
kneel amongst all these burgesses and vavassors when 
thou nughtest see the Abbot in his own chamber face 
to face alone with him ? " 

" Father," ssud Ralph, ^* I am no great man, and I 
must needs depart bedmes to-morrow ; for I perceive 
that here are things too mighty and over-mastering 
for 9uch as I be/' 

33 ^ 



** Well," s^d the monk, " yet mayst thou come 
back again ; so at present I will make no more words 
about it" 

So they went down, and came out amidst the 
throng, above which the bale still flared high, making 
the simuner night as light as day. The brother made 
way for Ralph, so that they stood in the front row of 
folk : they had not been there one minute ere they 
heard the sound of the brethren singing, and the 
Abbot came forth out of the lane that went down to 
the gate. Then all folk went down upon their knees, 
and thus abode him. Right so Ralph deemed that he 
felt some one pull his sleeve, but in such a throng 
that was nought of a wonder; howbeit, he turned and 
looked to his left, whence came the tug, and saw 
kneeling beside him a tall man-at-arms, who bore a 
sallet on his head in such wise that it covered all his 
face save the point of his chin. Then Ralph bethought 
him of the man of the leafless tree, and he looked to 
see what armoury the man bore on his coat ; but he 
had nothing save a loose frock of white linen over his 
hauberk. Nevertheless, he heard a voice in his ear, 
which said, " The second time ! " whereon he deemed 
that it was verily that same man : yet had he nought 
to do to lay hold on him, and he might not speak 
with him, for even therewith came the Abbot in gar- 
ments all of gold, going a-foot under a canopy of 
baudekyn, with the precious mitre on his head, and 
the crozier borne before him, as if he had been a 
patriarch : for he was an exceeding mighty lord. 

Ralph looked hard on him as he passed by, blessing 
the folk with upraised hand ; and he saw that he was 
a tall spare man, clean-shaven, and thin-faced ; but no 
old man, belike scarce of fifty winters. Ralph caught 
his eve, and he smiled on the goodly young man so 
kindly, that for a moment Ralph deemed that he 
would dwell in St. Mary's House for a little while j 

34 



for, thought he, if my father, or Nicholas, hear of me 
therein, they must even let me alone to abide here. 

Therewith the Abbot went forth to his place, and 
sat him down under a goodly cloth of estate, and folk 
stood up again ; but wnen Ralph looked for the man 
in the sallet he could see nought of him. Now when 
the Abbot was set down, men made a clear ring 
round about the bale, and there came into the said 
ring twelve young men, each clad in nought save a 
goat-skin, and with garlands of leaves and flowers 
about their middles: they had with them a wheel 
done about with straw and hemp payed with pitch 
and brimstone. They set fire to the same, and then 
trundled it blazing round about the bale twelve times. 
Then came to them twelve damsels clad in such-like 
guise as the young men : then both bands, the young 
men and the maidens, drew near to the bale, which 
was now burning low, and stood about it, and joined 
hands, and so danced round it a while, and meantime 
the fiddles played an imcouth tune merrily : then they 
sundered, and each couple of men and maids leapt 
backward and forward over the fire ; and when they 
had all leapt, came forward men with buckets of water 
which they cast over the dancers till it ran down them 
in streams. Then was all the throng mingled to- 
gether, and folk trod the embers of the bale under 
foo^ and scattered them hither and thither all over 
the square. 

All this while men were going about with pitchers 
of wine and ale, and other good drinks ; and every 
man drank freely what he would, and there was the 
greatest game and joyance. 

But now was Ralph exceeding weary, and he said: 
'^ Father, mightest thou lead me out of this throng, 
and show me some lair where I may sleep in peace, I 
would thank thee blithely ." 

As he spake there sounded a great horn over the 

35 



square^ and the Abbot rose in his place and blessed 
all the people once more. Then said the monk : 

'^Come then, fdir field-lord, now shalt thou have 
thy will of bed." And he laughed therewith, and 
drew Ralph out of the throng and brought him into 
the Abbey, and into a fair little chamber, on the wall 
whereof was pictured St Christopher, and St. Julian 
the lord and niend of wayfarers. Then he brought 
Ralph the wine and spices, and gave him good-night, 
and went his ways. 

As Ralph put the nument from off him he said to 
himself: a long day forsooth, so long that I should 
have thought no day could have held all that has be- 
fallen me. So many strange things have I seen, that 
surely my dreams shall be full of them ; for even now 
I seem to see them, though I waken. 

So he lay down in his bed and slept, and dreamed 
that he was fishing with an angle in a deep of 
Upmeads Water ; and he caught many fish ; but after 
a while whatsoever he caught was but of gilded paper 
stuffed with wool, and at last the water itselt was 
gone, and he was casting his angle on to a dry road. 
Therewith he awoke and saw that day was dawning, 
and heard the minster clock strike three, and heard 
the thrushes singing their first song in the Prior's 
garden. Then he turned about and slept, and 
dreamed no more till he woke up in the bright sunny 
morning. 

CHAPTER VI. RALPH GOETH HIS WAYS 
FROM THE ABBEY OF ST. MARY AT 
HICHAM. 

IT was the monk who had been his guide the day 
before who had now waked him, and he stood by 
the bedside holding a great bowl of milk in his 
hand^ and as Ralph sat up, and rubbed his eyes, with 

36 



aU his youthful sloth upon him, the monk laughed 
and s^d : 

^^ That is well, lord, that is well ! I love to see a 
young man so sleepy in the morning ; it is a sign of 
thriving ; and I see thou art thriving heartily for the 
time when thou shalt come back to us to lead my 
Wd's host in battle/' 

" Where be the bale-fires ? " said Ralph, not yet 
fully awake. 

" Where be they ! " said the brother, " where be 
they ! They be sunken to cold coals long ago, like 
many a man's desires and hopes, who hath not yet 
laid his head on the bosom of the mother, that is 
Holy Church. Come, my lord, arise, and drink the 
monk's wine of morning, and then if ye must needs 
ride, ride betimes, and ride hard; for the Wood 
Perilous beginneth presently as ye wend your ways ; 
and it were well for thee to reach the Burg of the 
Four Friths ere thou be benighted. For, son, there 
be untoward things in the wood ; and though some of 
them be of those for whom Christ's Cross was shapen, 
yet have they forgotten hell, and hope not for heaven, 
and their by-word is, ' Thou shalt lack ere I lack.' 
Furthermore there are worse wights in the wood than 
they be — God save us ! — but agsdnst them have I a 
good hauberk, a neck-guard wluch I will give thee, 
son, in token that I look to see thee agsun at the 
lovely house of Mary our Mother." 

Ralph had taken the bowl and was drinking, but 
he looked over the brim, and saw how the monk drew 
from his frock a pair of beads, as like to Dame Kathe- 
rine's gift as one pea to another, save that at the end 
thereof was a little box shapen crosswise. Ralph 
emptied the bowl hastily, got out of bed, and sat on 
the bed naked, save that on his neck was Dame 
Katherine's gift. He reached out his hand and took 
the beads from the monk and reddened therewith, as 

37 



was his wont when he had to begin a contest in words : 
but he said : 

** I thank thee, &ther ; yet God wot if these beads 
will lie sweetly alongside the collar which I bear on 
my neck as now, which is the gift of a dear friend." 

The monk made up a solemn countenance and 
said : *' Thou sayest sooth, my son ; it is most like 
that my chaplet, which hath been blessed time was by 
the holy Richard, is no meet fellow for the gift of 
some light love of thine : or even," quoth he, noting 
Ralph's flush deepen, and his brow knit, " or even if 
it were the gift of a well-wilier, yet belike it is a 
worldly gift ; therefore, since thy journey is with 
peril, thou wert best do it off and let me keep it for 
thee till thou comest again." 

Now as he spake he looked anxiously, nay, it may 
be said greedily, at the young man. But Ralph said 
nought ; for in his heart he was determined not to 
chaffer away his gossip's gift for any shaveling's 
token. Yet he knew not how to set his youthful 
words against the father's wisdom ; so he stood up, 
and got his shirt mto his hand, and as he did it over 
his head he fell to singing to himself a song of even- 
tide of the High House of Upmeads, the words 
whereof were somewhat like to these : 

Art thou man, art thou maid, through the long grass 
a-going ? 
For short shirt thou bearest, and no beard I see. 
And the last wind ere moonrise about thee is blowing. 
Would'st thou meet with thy maiden or look'sc 
thou for me ? ' 

Bright shineth the moon now, I see thy gown longer; 

And down by the hazels Joan meeteth her lad : 
But hard is thy palm, lass, and scarcely were stronger 

Wat's grip than thine hand-kiss that maketh me 
glad 

38 



■*. 



And now as the candles shine on us and over. 
Full shapely thy feet are^ but brown on the floor. 

As the bare-footed mowers amidst of the clover 
When the gowk's note is broken and mid- June is 
o'er. 

O hard are mine hand-palms because on the ridges 
I carried the reap-hook and smote for thy sake ; 

And in the hot noon-tide I beat off the midges 
As thou slcp'st 'neath the linden o'er-loathe to 
awake. 

And brown are my feet now because the sun bumeth 
High up on the down-side amidst of the sheep^ 

And there in the hollow wherefrom the wind turneth. 
Thou lay'st in my lap while I sung thee to sleep. 

O friend of the earth, O come nigher and nigher. 
Thou art sweet with the sim's kiss as meads of the 
May, 

O'er the rocks of the waste, o'er the water and fire, 
Will I follow thee, love, till earth waneth away. 

The monk hearkened to him with knitted brow^ 
and as one that liketh not the speech of his fellow, 
though it be not wise to question it : then he went 
out of the chamber, but left the pair of beads lying in 
the window. But Ralph clad himself in haste, and 
when he was fully clad, went up to the window and 
took the beads in his hand, and looked into them 
curiously and turned them over, but left them lying 
there. Then he went forth also, and came into the 
forecourt of the house, and found there a squire of the 
men-at-arms with his weapons and horse, who helped 
him to do on his war-gear. 

So then, just as he was setting his foot in the 
stirrup, came the Brother again, with his face once 
more grown smiling and happy ; and in his left hand 
he held the chaplet, but did not offer it to Ralph 

39 



again^ but nodded his head to htm kindly, and ssud : 
" Now, lord, I can see by thy face that thou art set on 
beholding the fashion of this world, and most like it 
will give thee the rue." 

Then came a word into Ralph's mouth, and he 
said : " Wilt thou tell me, father, whose work was the 
world's fashion ? " 

The monk reddened, but answered nought, and 
Ralph spake again : 

" Forsooth, did the craftsman of it fumble over his 
work?" 

Then the monk scowled, but presently he enforced 
himself to speak blithely, and said : ^ Such matters 
are over high for my speech or thine, lord ; but I tell 
thee, who knoweth, that there are men in this House 
who have tried the world and foimd it wanting/' 

Ralph smiled, and said stammering : 

"Father, did the world try them, and find them 
wanting perchance ? " 

Then he reddened, and said : " Arc ye verily all 
such as this in this House ? Who then is it who hath 
made so fair a lordship, and so goodly a governance 
for so many people? Know ye not at all of the 
world's ways ? " 

" Fwr sir," said the monk sternly, " they that work 
for us work for the Lord and all his servants." 

** Yea," said Ralph, *' so it is ; and will the Lord 
be content with the service of him whom the devil hath 
cast out because he hath found him a dastard ? " 

The monk frowned, yet smiled somewhat withal, 
and said : ** Sir, thou art young, but thy wits are over 
old for me ; but there are they in this House who 
may answer thee featly ; men who have read the books 
of the wise men of the heathen, and the doctors of 
Holy Church, and are even now making books for 
the scribes to copy." Then his voice softened, and he 
said : ^ Dear lord, we should be right fain of thee 

40 



here^ but since thou must needs go, go with my 
blessing, and double blessing shalt thou have when 
thou comest back to us/' Then Ralph remembered 
his promise to the shepherds and took a gold crown 
from his pouch, and said : ^' Father, I pray thee say a 
mass for the shepherd downsmen ; and this is for the 
offering/' 

The monk praised the gift and the bidding, and 
kissed Ralph, who clomb into his saddle; and the 
brother hospitalier. brought him his waUet with good 
meat and drink therein for the way. Then Ralph 
shook his rein^ and rode out of the abbey-gate, smiling 
at the lay-brethren and the men-at-arms who hung 
about there. 

But he sighed for pleasure when he found himself 
in the street again, and looked on the shops of the 
chapmen and die booths of the petty craftsmen, as 
shoe-smiths and glovers, and tinsmiths and copper- 
smiths, and homers and the like ; and the folk that 
he met as he rode toward the southern gate seemed 
to him merry and in good case, and goodly to look 
on. And he thought it pleasant to gaze on the 
damseb in the street^ who were fair and well clad : 
and there were a many of them about his way now, 
especially as he drew nigh the gate before the streets 
branched off: for folk were coming in from the country- 
side with victual and other wares for the town and 
the Abbey; and surely as he looked on some of the 
maidens he deemed that Hall-song of Upmeads a 
good ont. 



41 



CHAPTER VII. THE MAIDEN OF BOUR- 
TON ABBAS. 

SO went he through the gate, and many, both of 
men and maids gazed at him, for he was fair to 
look on, but none meddled with him. 

There was a goodly fauburg outside the gate, and 
therein were fair houses, not a few, with gardens and 
orchards about them ; and when these were past he 
rode through very excellent meadows lying along the 
water,* which he crossed thrice, once by a goodly stone 
bridge and twice by fords; for the road was straight, 
and the river wound about much. 

After a little while the road led him off the plain 
meads into a country of little hills and dales, the hill- 
sides covered with vineyards and orchards, and the 
dales plenteous of corn-fields; and now amongst these 
dales Higham was hidden from him. 

Through this tillage and vine-land he rode a good 
while, and thought he had never seen a goodlier 
land; and as he went he came on husbandmen and 
women of the country going about their business : yet 
were they not too busy to gaze on him, and most 
greeted him ; and with some he gave and took a little 
speech. 

These people also he deemed well before the world, 
for they were weU clad and buxom, and made no great 
haste as they went, but looked about them as though 
they deemed the world worth looking at, and as if 
they had no fear either of a blow or a hard word for 
loitering. 

So he rode till it was noon, and he was amidst a little 
thorp of grey stone houses, trim enough, in a valley 
wherein there was more of wild-wood trees and less 
of fruit-bearers than those behind him. In the thorp 
was a tavern with the sign of the Nicholas, so Ralph 
deemed it but right to enter a house which was under 

4a 



the guard of his master and fiiend; therefore he 
lighted down and went in. Therein he found a lad of 
fifteen winters, and a maiden spinning, they two alone, 
who hailed him and asked his pleasure, and he bade 
them bring him meat and drink^ and look to his 
horse, for that he had a mind to rest a while. So they 
brought him bread and flesh, and good wine of the 
hill-side, in a jittle hall well arrayed as of its kind ; 
and he sat down and the damsel served him at table, 
but the lad, who had gone to see to his horse, did not 
come back. 

So when he had eaten and drunk^ and the damsel 
was still there, he looked on her and saw that she was 
sad and drooping of aspect ; and whereas she was a 
fair maiden, Ralph, now that he was full, fell to pitying 
her, and asked her what was amiss. ^' For," said he, 
'* thou art fair and ailest nought ; that is clear to see ; 
neither dwellest thou in penury, but by seeming hast 
enough and to spare. Or art thou a servant in this 
house, and hath any one misused thee ? " 

She wept at his words, for indeed he spoke softly to 
her ; then she said : ^^ Young lord, thou art kind, and 
it is thy kindness that draweth the tears from me ; 
else it were not well to weep before a yoimg man : 
therefore I pray thee pardon me. As for me^ I am 
no servant, nor has any one misused me: the folk 
round about are good and neighbourly; and this 
house and the croft^ and a vineyard hard by, all that 
is mine own and my brother's; that is the lad who 
hath gone to tend thine horse. Yea^ and we live in 
peace here for the most part ; for this thorp, which is 
called Bourton Abbas, is a land of the Abbey of 
Higham ; though it be the outermost of its lands 
and the Abbot is a good lord and a defence against 
tyrants. All is well with me if one thing were not" 

"What is thy need then?" said Ralph, "if per- 
chance I might amend it." And as he looked on her 

43 



he deemed her yet fairer than he had done at first. 
But she stayed her weeping and sobbing and said: 
" Sir, I fear me that I have lost a dear friend." ** How 
then/' said he, " why fearest thou, and knowest not ? 
doth thy friend lie sick between life and death?" 
" O Sir/ she said^ " it is the Wood which is the evil 
and disease/' 

** What wood is that ? " said he. 

She ssdd : ** The Wood Perilous, that lieth betwixt 
us and the Burg of the Four Friths, and all about the 
Burg. And, Sir, if ye be minded to ride to the Burg 
to-day, do it not, for through the wood must thou 
wend diereto ; and ye are young and lovely. There- 
fore take my rede, and abide till the Chapmen wend 
thither from Higham, who ride many in company. 
For, look you, fiur lord, ye have asked of my grief, 
and this it is and nought else ; that my very emhly 
love and speech-friend rode five days ago toward the 
Burs of the Four Friths all alone through the Wood 
PerUous, and he has not come back, though we looked 
to see him in three days' wearing : but nis horse has 
come back, and the reins and the saddle all bloody." 

And she fell a-weeping with the telling of the tale. 
But Ralph said (for he knew not what to say) : 
^ Keep a sood heart, maiden ; maybe he is safe and 
sound ; oft are young men fond to wander wide, even 
as I myself." 

She looked at him hard and said : ^ If thou hast 
stolen thyself away from them that love thee, thou 
hast done amiss. Though thou art a lord, and so fair 
as I see thee, yet will I tell thee so much." 

Ralph reddened and answered nought ; but deemed 
the maiden both fair and sweet. But she said: 
** Whether thou hast done well or ill, do no worse ; 
but abide till the Chapmen come from Higham, on 
their way to the Burg of the Four Friths. Here 
mayit thou kxlge well and safely if thou wilt. Or if 

44 



our hall be not dainty enough for thee^ then go back 
to Higham : I warrant me the monks ^dll give thee 
good guesting as long as thou wilt" 

*^ Thou art kind, m^den/' said Ralph, " but why 
should I tarry for an host ? and what should I fear in 
the Wood, as evil as it may be ? One man journey- 
ing with little wealth, and unknown, and he no 
weakling, but bearing good weapons, hath nought to 
dread of strong-thieves, who ever rob where it is 
easiest and gainndlest. And what worse may I meet 
than strong-thieves ?" 

'^But thou mayest meet worse," she said; and 
therewith fell a-weeping again, and said amidst her 
tears : ** O weary on my life ! And why should I 
heed thee when nought heedeth me, neither the Saints 
of God's House, nor the Master of it ; nor the father 
and the mother that were once so piteous kind to 
me? O if I might but drink a draught from the 
WELL AT THE WORLD'S END!" 

He turned about on her hastily at that word ; for 
he had risen to depart ; being grieved at her grief and 
wishful to be away from it, since he nught not amend 
it. But now he said eagerly : 

" Where then is that Well ? Know ye of it in 
this land?" 

^'At least I know the hearsay thereof," she said; 
'^but as now thou shalt know no more from me 
thereof; lest thou wander the wider in seeking it. 
I would not have thy life spilt." 

Ever as he looked on her he thought her still 
fw-er ; and now he looked long on her, saying nought, 
and she on him in likewise, and the blood rose to her 
cheeks and her brow, but she would not turn her 
from his gaze. At last he said: "Well then, I 
must depart, no more learned than I came : but yet 
am I less hungry and thirsty than I came ; and hnvc 
thou thanks therefor." 

45 



Therewith he took from his pouch a gold piece of 
Upmeads^ which was good, and of the touch of the 
Easterlings^ and held it out to her. And she put out 
her open hand and he put the money in it ; but 
thought it good to hold her hand a while, and she 
gainsayed him not. 

Then he said: "Well then, I must needs depart 
with things left as they are: wilt thou bid thy brother 
bring hither my horse, for time presses.*' 

"Yea," she said (and her hand was still in 
his), " Yet do thine utmost, yet shalt thou not get 
to die Burg before nightfall. O wilt thou not tarry ?" 

^ Nay," he said, " my heart will not sufier it ; lest 
I deem myself a dastard." 

Then she reddened again, but as if she were wroth ; 
and she drew her hand away from his and smote her 
palms together thrice and cried out : " Ho Hugh ! 
bring hither the Knight's horse and be speedy ! " 

And she went hither and thither about the hall and 
into the buttery and back, putting away the victual and 
vessels from the board and making as if she heeded 
him not : and Ralph looked on her, and deemed that 
each way she moved was better than the last, so 
shapely of fashion she was ; and again he bethought 
him of the Even-song of the High House at Up- 
meads, and how it befitted her ; for she went barefoot 
after the manner of maidens who work afield, and her 
feet were tanned with the sun of hay harvest, but as 
shapely as might be ; but she was clad goodly withal, 
in a green gown wrought with flowers. 

So he watched her going to and fro ; and at last he 
said : " Maiden, wilt 3iou come hither a little, before 
I depart?" 

"•Yea," she said ; and came and stood before him : 
and he deemed that she was scarce so sad as she had 
been ; and she stood with her hands joined and her 
eyes downcast* Then he said : 

46 



" Now I depart Yet I would say this, that I am 
sorry of thy sorrow : and now since I shall never see 
thee more^ small would be the harm if I were to kiss 
thy lips and thy fece." 

And therewith he took her hands in his and drew 
her to him^ and put his arms about her and kissed her 
many times, and she nothing lothe by seeming ; and 
he found her as sweet as May blossom. 

Thereafter she smiled on him, yet scarce for glad- 
ness, and said : '' It is not all so sure that I shall not 
see thee again; yet shall I do to thee as thou hast 
done to me/* 

Therewith she took his face between her hands, and 
kissed him well-favouredly ; so that the hour seemed 
good to him. 

Then she took him by the hand and led him out-a- 
doors to his horse, whereby the lad had been standing 
a good while ; and he when he saw his sister come out 
with the fair knight he scowled on them, and handled 
a knife which hung at his girdle ; but Ralph heeded 
him nought. As for the damsel, she put her brother 
aside, and held the stirrup for Ralph ; and when he 
was in the saddle she said to him : 

**A11 luck go with thee! Forsooth I deem thee 
safer in the Wood than my words said. Verily I 
deem that if thou wert to meet a company of foemen, 
thou wouldest compel them to do thy bidding.** 

" Farewell to thee maiden,** said Ralph, " and mayst 
thou find thy beloved whole and well, and that 
speedily. Farewell !** 

She said no more ; so he shook his rein and rode his 
ways ; but looked over his shoulder presently and saw 
her standing yet barefoot on the dusty highway shading 
her eyes from the afternoon sun and looking after 
him, and he waved his hand to her and so went his 
ways between the houses of the Thorp. 

47 



CHAPTER VIII. RALPH COMETH TO 
THE WOOD PERILOUS. AN ADVEN- 
TURE THEREIN. 

NOW when he was clear of the Thorp the road 
took him out of the dale ; and when he was 
on the hill's brow he saw that the land was of 
other fashion from that which lay behind him. For 
the road went straight through a rough waste, no 
pasture, save for mountain sheep or goats, with a few 
bushes scattered about it; and beyond this the land 
rose into a long ridge ; and on the ridge was a wood 
thick with trees, and no break in them. So on he 
rode, and soon passed that waste, which was dry and 
parched, and the afternoon sun was hot on it ; so he 
deemed it good to come under the shadow of the thick 
trees (which at the first were wholly beech trees), for it 
was now the hottest of the day. There was still a 
beaten way between the tree-boles, though not over- 
wide, albeit, a highway, since it pierced the wood. 
So thereby he went at a soft pace for the saving of 
his horse, and thought but little of all he had been told 
of the perils of the way, and not a little of the fair maid 
whom he had left behind at the Thorp. 

After a while the thick beech-wood gave out, and 
he came into a place where great oaks grew, ^r and 
stately, as though some lord's wood-reeve had taken 
care that they should not grow over close together, 
and betwixt them the greensward was fine, unbroken, 
and flowery. Thereby as he rode he beheld deer, 
both buck and hart and roe, and other wild things, 
but for a long while no man. 

The afternoon wore and still he rode the oak wood, 
and deemed it a goodly forest for the greatest king on 
earth. At last he came to where another road crossed 
the way he followed, and about the crossway was the 
ground dearer of trees, while beyond it the trees grew 

^9 



tfaickeTj and there was some underwood of holly and 
thorn as the ground fell off as towards a little dale. 

There Ralph drew rein, because he doubted in his 
mind which was his right road toward the Burg of the 
Four Friths; so he got off his horse and abode a 
little, if perchance any might come by; he looked 
about him, and noted on the road that crossed his, 
and the sward about it, the sign of many horses having 
gone by, and deemed that they had passed but a little 
while. So he lay on the ground to rest him and let 
lus horse stray about and bite the grass ; for the beast 
loved him and would come at his call or his whistle. 

Ralph was drowsy when he lay down, and though 
he said to himself that he would nowise go to sleep, 
yet as oft happens, he had no defence to make against 
sleepiness, and presently his hands relaxed, his head 
fell aside, and he slept quietly. When he woke up in 
a Kttle space of time, he knew at once that something 
had awaked him and that he had not had his sleep out ; 
for in his ears was the trampling of horse-hoofs and 
the clashing of weapons and loud speech of men. So 
he leapt up hastily, and while he was yet scarce awake, 
took to whisding on his horse ; but even therewith 
those men were upon him, and two came up to him and 
laid hold of him ; and when he asked them what they 
would, they bade him hold his peace. 

Now his eyes cleared, and he saw that those men 
were in soodly war-gear, and bore coats of plate, and 
cuir-bouiUy, or of bright steel ; they held long spears 
and were girt with good swords ; there was a pennon 
with them, green, whereon was done a golden tower, 
embattled, amidst of four white ways ; and the same 
token bore many of the men on their coats and 
sleeves. Unto this same pennon he was brought by 
the two men who had taken him, and under it, on a 
whitse horse, sat a Knight bravely armed at all points 
with die Tower and Four Ways on his green surcoat ; 

4? 9 



and beside him was an ancient man-at-arms, with 
nought but an oak wreath on his bare head, and his 
white beard falling low over his coat: but behind 
these twain a tall young man, also on a white horse and 
very gaily clad, upheld, the pennon. On one side of 
these three were five men, unarmed, clad in green 
coats, with a leafless tree done on them in gold : they 
were stout carles, bearded and fierce-faced: their 
hands were bound behind their backs and their feet 
tied together under their horses* bellies. The company 
of those about the Knight, Ralph deemed, would 
number ten score men. 

So when those twain stayed Ralph before the 
Knight, he turned to the old man and said : 

''It is of no av^ asking this lither lad if he be of 
them or no : for no will be his answer. But what 
sayest thou, Oliver ?" 

The ancient man drew closer to Ralph and looked 
at him up and down and all about; for those two 
turned him about as if he had been a joint of flesh on 
the roasting-jack ; and at last he said : 

'' His b^rd is sprouting, else might ye have taken 
him for a maid of theirs, one of those of whom we 
wot. But to say sooth I seem to know the fashion of 
his gear, even as Duke Jacob knew Joseph's tabard. So 
ask him whence he is, lord, and if he lie, then I bid bind 
him and lead him away, that we may have a true tale 
out of him; otherwise let him go and take hischance; for 
we will not waste the bread ofthe Good Town on him." 

The Knight looked hard on Ralph, and spake to 
him somewhat courteously : 

" Whence art thou, fair Sir, and what is thy name ? 
for we have many foes in the wildwood." 

Ralph reddened as he answered: "I am of Up- 
meads beyond the down country ; and I pray thee let 
me be gone on mine errands. It is meet that thou deal 
with thine own robbers and reivers, but not with me." 



Then cried out one of the bounden men : ^^ Thou 
liest, lad, we be no robbers/' But he of the Knight's 
company who stood by him smote the man on the 
mouth and said : '* Hold thy peace^ runagate ! Thou 
ahalt give tongue to-morrow when the h^gman hath 
thee under his hands." 

The Knight took no heed of this ; but turned to 
the ancient warrior and s^d : '' Hath he spoken truth 
»far?" 

"Yea, Sir Aymer," quoth Oliver; *'And now 
meseems I know him better than he knoweth me/' 

Therewith he turned to Ralph and said: "How 
fareth Long Nicholas, my lord ? " 

Ralph reddened again : " He is well/' said he. 

Then said the Knight : " Is the young man of a 
worthy house, Oliver ? " 

But ere the elder could speak, Ralph brake in and 
said: "Old warrior, I bid thee not to tell out my 
name, as thou lovest Nicholas/' 

Old Oliver laughed and said : " Well, Nicholas and 
I have been friends in a way, as well as foes ; and for 
the sake of the old days his name shall help thee, 
yoimg lord." Then he s^d to his Knight : " Yea, 
Sir Aymer, he is of a goodly house and an ancient ; 
but thou hearest how he adjureth me. Ye shall let his 
name alone/' 

The Knight looked silently on Ralph for a while ; 
then he ssud : " Wilt thou wend with us to the Burg 
of the Four Friths, fair Sir ? Wert thou not faring 
thither? Or what else dost thou in the Wood 
Perilous?" 

Ralph turned it over in his mind ; and though he 
saw no cause why he should not join himself to their 
company, yet something in his heart forbade him to 
rise to the fly too eagerly ; so he did but say : " I 
am seeldng adventures, fair lord." 

The Knight smiled: "Then mayst thou fill thy 

51 



budget with tlym if thou goest with us/' quoth he. 
Now Ralph did not know how he might gainsay so 
many men at arms in the long run^ though he were 
scarce willing to go ; so he made no haste to answer ; 
and even therewith came a man running, through the 
wood up from the dale ; a long, lean carle, meet for 
running, with brogues on his feet, and nought else but a 
shirt ; the company parted before him to right and left 
to let him come to the Knight, as though he had been 
lodced for ; and when he was beside him, the Knight 
leaned down whik the carle spake softly to him and all 
men drew out of ear-shot. And when the carle had 
given his message the Knight drew himself straight up 
in his saddle again and lifted up his hand and cried out : 

" Oliver ! Oliver ! lead on the way thou wottest ! 
Spur ! spur, all men ! " 

Therewith he blew one blast from a horn which 
hung at his saddle-bow ; the runner leapt up behind 
old Oliver, and the whole company went off at a smart 
trot somewhat south-east> slantwise of the cross-roads, 
where the wood was nought cumbered with under- 
growth ; and presently they were all gone to the last 
horse-tail^ and no man took any more note of Ralph. 

CHAPTER IX. ANOTHER ADVENTURE 
IN THE WOOD PERILOUS. 

RALPH left alone pondered a little ; and thought 
that he would by no means go hastily to the 
Burg of die Four Fridis. Said he to himself; 
This want-way is all unlike to the one near our house 
at home : for belike adventures shall be£ill here : I 
will even abide here for an hom* or two; but will 
have my horse by me and keep awake, lest something 
hap to me unawares. 

Therewith he whistled for Fakon his horse, and 
tiiie beast came to him, and whinnied for love of him, 



and Ralph smiled and tied kirn to a sapling anigh, and 
himself sat down on the grass, and pondered many 
things ; as to what folk were about at Upmeads, and 
how his brethren were faring ; and it was now about 
five hours after noon, and the sun's rays fell aslant 
through the boughs of the noble oaks, and the scent 
of the grass and bracken trodden by the horse-hoofs of 
that coippany went up into the warm sunmier air. A 
while he sat musing but awake, though the ^nt 
sound of a little stream in the dale below mingled 
with all the lesser noises of the forest did its beat to 
soothe him to sleep again : and presently had its way 
with him ; for he leaned his head back on the bracken, 
and in a minute or two was sleepmg once more and 
dreaming some dream made up of masterless memories 
of past days. 

When he awoke again he lay still a Kttle whiles 
wondering where in the world he was, but as the 
drowsiness left him, he arose and looked about, and 
saw that the sun was sinking low and gilding the oak- 
boles red. He stood awhile and watched the gambols 
of three hares, who had drawn nigh him while he 
slept, and now noted him not ; and a little way he saw 
through the trees a hart and two hinds going slowly 
from grass to grass, feeding in the cool eventide ; but 
presently he saw them raise their heads and amble off 
down the slope of the little dale, and therewith he 
himself turned his fSure sharply toward the ncxth-west, 
for he was fine-eared as well as sharp-eyed, and on a 
little wind which had just arisen came down to him 
the sound of horse-hoo& once more. 

So he went up to Fakon and loosed him, and stood 
by him bridle in hand, and looked to it that his sword 
was handy to him : and he hearkened, and the sound 
drew nigher and nigher to him. Then lightly he got 
into the saddle and gathered the reins into his left hand, 
and sat peering up the trodden wood*^lades, lest he 

53 



should have to ride for his life suddenly. Therewith 
he heard voices talking roughly and a man whistling, 
and athwart the glade of the wood from the north- 
west, or thereabout, came new folk ; and he saw at 
once that there went two men a-horseback and armed ; 
so he drew his sword and abode them close to the 
want- ways. Presently they saw the shine of his war- 
gear, and then they came but a little nigher ere they 
drew rein, and sat on their horses looking toward 
him. Then Ralph saw that they were armed and 
clad as those of the company which had gone before. 
One of the armed men rode a horse-length after his 
fellow, and bore a long spear ov^ his shoulder. But 
the other who rode nrst was girt with a sword, and 
had a little axe hanging about his neck, and with his 
right hand he seemed to be leading something, Ralph 
could not see what at first, as his left side was turned 
toward Ralph and the want-way. 

Now, as Ralph looked, he saw that at the spear- 
man's saddle-bow was hung a man's head, red-haired 
and red-bearded; for this man now drew a little 
nigher, and cried out to Ralph in a loud and merry 
voice : ^^ Hail, knight ! whither away now, that thou 
ridest the green-wood sword in hand ? ** 

Ralph was just about to answer somewhat, when 
the first man moved a little nigher, and as he did so he 
turned so that Ralph could see what betid on his right 
hand ; and lo ! he was leading a woman by a rope 
tied about her neck (though her hands were loose), as 
though he were bringing a cow to market. When the 
man stayed his horse she came forward and stood 
within the slack of the rope by the horse's head, and 
Ralph could see her well, that though she was not to 
say naked, her raiment was but scanty, for she had 
nought to cover her save one short and strait little 
coat of linen, and shoes on her feet Yet Ralph 
deemed her to be of some degree, whereas he caught 

54 



the gleam of gold and gems on her hands, and 
there was a golden chaplet on her head. She stood 
now by the horse's head with her hands folded, 
looking on, as if what was tiding and to betide, were but 
a play done for her pleasure. 

So when Ralph looked on her, he was silent a while ; 
and the spearman cried out again : '^ Ho, young man, 
wilt thou speak, or art thou dumb-foundered for fear 
ofus?" 

But Ralph knit his brows, and was first red and 
then pale ; for he was both wroth, and doubtful how 
to go to work ; but he said : 

*'I ride to seek adventures; and here meseemeth 
is one come to hand. Or what will ye with the 
woman?" 

Said the man who had the woman in tow : '^ Trouble 
not thine head therewith; we lead her to her due 
doom. As for thee, be glad that thou art not her 
fellow ; since forsooth thou seemest not to be one of 
them ; so go thy ways in peace.'' 

" No foot further will I go," said Ralph, " till ye 
loose the woman and let her go ; or else tell me what 
her worst deed is." 

The man laughed, and said : " That were a long 
tale to tell ; and it is little like that thou shalt live to 
hear the ending thereof." 

Therewith he wagged his head at the spearman, 
who suddenly let his spear fall into the rest, and 
purred, and drave on at Ralph all he might. There 
and then had the tale ended, but Ralph, who was 
wary, though he were young, and had Falcon well in 
hand, tum^ his wrist and made the horse swerve, so 
that the man-at-arms missed his attaint, but could not 
draw rein speedily enough to stay his horse ; and as 
he passed by all bowed over his horse's neck, Ralph 
gat his sword two-handed and rose in his stirrups and 
smote his mightiest ; and the sword caught the foeman 

55 



dn the neck betwixt sal let and jack, and nought held 
before it, neither leather nor ring-mail, so that the 
man's head was nigh smitten off, and he fell clattering 
from his saddle : yet his sdrrups held him, so that his 
horse went dragging him on earth as he gallopped 
over rough and smooth betwixt the trees of the forest. 
Then Ralph turned about to deal with his fellow, and 
even through the wrath and fiiry of the slaying saw 
him clear and bright against the trees as he sat 
handling his axe doubtfully, but the woman was ^en 
back again somewhat. 

But even as Ralph raised his sword and pricked 
forward, the woman sprang as light as a leopard on 
to the saddle behind the foeman, and wound her 
arms about him and dragged him back just as he was 
raising his axe to smite her, and as Ralph rode for- 
ward she cried out to him, ^' Smite him, snute! O 
lovely creature of God ! " 

Therewith was Ralph beside them, and though he 
were loth to slay a man held in the arms of a woman, 
yet he feared lest the man should slay her with some 
knife-stroke unless he made haste; so he thrust his 
sword through him, and the man died at once, and 
fell headlong off his horse, dragging down the woman 
with him. 

Then Ralph lighted down from his horse, and the 
woman rose up to him, her white smock all bloody 
with the slain man. Nevertheless was she as calm and 
stately before him, as if she were sitting on the dais 
of a £ur hall ; so she said to him : 

" Young warrior, thou hast done well and knightly, 
and I shalllook to it that thou have thy reward. And 
now I rede thee go not to the Burg of the Four 
Friths ; for this tale of thee shall get about, and they 
shall take thee, if it were out of the very Frith-stool, 
and there for thee should be the scourge and the 
gibbet ; for they of that Burg be robbers and mur- 

S6 



derers merciless. Yet well it were that thou ride 
hence presently ; for those be behind my tormentors 
whom thou hast slain, who will be as an host to thee, 
and thou mayst not deal with them. If thou follow 
my rede, thou wilt take the way that goeth hence east 
away, and then shalt thou come to Hampton under 
Scaur, where the folk are peaceable and friendly." 

He looked at her hard as she spake, and noted that 
she spake but slowly, and turned red and white and 
red again as she looked at him. But whatever 
she did, and in spite of her poor attire, he deemed he 
had never seen woman so fair. Her hair was dark 
red, but her eyes grey, and light at whiles and yet at 
whiles deep ; her lips betwixt thin and full, but yet 
when she spoke or smiled clad with all enticements ; 
her chin round and so wrought as none was ever 
better wrought ; her body strong and well-knit ; tall 
she was, with fair and large arms, and limbs most 
goodly of fashion, of which but little was hidden, 
since her coat was but thin and scanty. But what- 
ever may be siud of her, no man would have deemed 
her aught save most lovely. Now her ^e grew 
calm anid stately again as it was at the first, and she 
laid a hand on Ralph's shoulder^ and smiled in his 
face and said : 

^^ Surely thou art jfair, though thy strokes be not 
li^t'' Then she took his hand and caressed it, and said 
agun : *^ Dost thou deem that thou hast done great 
tlMngs, fair child ? Maybe. Yet some will say that 
thou hast but slain two butchers : and if thou wilt 
say that thou hast delivered me ; yet it may be that I 
should have delivered myself ere long. Nevertheless 
hold up thine heart, for I think that greater things 
await thee." 

Then she turned about, and saw the dead man, how 
his feet yet hung in the stirrups as his fellow's had 
done, save that tlvs horse of this one stood nigh still,only 

57 



reaching his head down to crop a mouthful of grass ; 
so she s^d : ^' Take him away^ that I may mount on 
his horse." 

So he drew the dead man's feet out of the stirrups, 
and dragged him away to where the bracken grew 
deep, and laid him down there, ^ to say hidden. 
Then he turned back to the lady, who was pacing up 
and down near the horse as the beast fed quietly on 
the cool grass. When Ralph came back she took 
the reins in her hand and put one foot in the stirrup 
as if she would mount at once ; but suddenly lighted 
down again, and turning to Ralph, cast her arms 
about him, and kissed his face many times, blushing 
red as a rose meantime. Then lightly she gat her up 
into the saddle, and bestrode the beast, and smote his 
flanks with her heels, and went her ways riding 
speedily toward the south-east, so that she was soon 
out of sight. 

But Ralph stood still looking the way she had gone 
and wondering at the adventure; and he pondered 
her words and held debate with himself whether he 
should take the road she bade him. And he said 
within himself: ^'Hitherto |iave I been safe and 
have got no scratch of a weapon upon me, and this is 
a place by seeming for all adventures ; and little way 
moreover shall I make in the night if I must needs go 
to Hampton' under Scaur, where dwell those peaceable 
people ; and it is now growing dusk already. So I 
will abide the morning hereby ; but I will be wary 
and let the wood cover me if I may." 

Therewith he went and drew the body of the slain 
man down into a little hollow where the bracken was 
high and the brambles grew strong, so that it might 
not be lightly seen. Then he called to him Falcon, 
his horse, and looked about for cover anigh the want- 
way, and found a little thin coppice of hazel and sweet 
chestnut, just where two great oaks had been feUed 

58 



a half score years ago ; and looking through the leaves 
thence, he could see the four ways clearly enough^ 
though it would not be easy for anyone to see him 
thence. 

Thither he betook him, and he did the rein off 
Falcon, but tethered him by a halter in the thickest of 
the copse, and sat down himself nigher to the outside 
thereof; he did off his helm and drew what meat he 
had fix>m out his wallet and ate and drank in the 
beginning of the summer night ; and then sat pon- 
dering awhile on what had befallen on this second 
day of his wandering. The moon shone out pre- 
sently, little clouded, but he saw her not, for though 
he strove to wake awhile, slumber soon overcame him, 
and nothing waked him till the night was passing, nor 
did he see aught of that company of which the lady 
had spoken, and which in sooth came not. 

CHAPTER X. A MEETING AND A PART- 
ING IN THE WOOD PERILOUS. 

WHEN the first glimmer of dawn was in the 
sky he awoke in the fresh morning, and sat up 
and hearkened, for even as he woke he had 
heard something, since wariness had made him wake- 
ful. Now he hears the sound of horse-hoofs on the 
hard road, and riseth to his feet and goedi to the very 
edge of the copse ; looking thence he saw a rider who 
was just come to the very crossing of the roads. The 
new comer was much muffled in a wide cloak, but he 
seemed to be a man low of stature. He peered all 
round about him as if to see if the way were clear, and 
then alighted down from horseback and let the hood 
fall off his head, and seemed pondering which way 
were the best to take. By this time it was grown 
somewhat lighter and Ralph, looking hard, deemed 
that the rider was a woman ; so he stepped forward 

59 



%htly, and as he came on to the open sward about the 
way, the new comer saw him and put a foot into the 
stirrup to mount, but yet looked at him over the 
shoulder, and then presently left the saddle and came 
forward a few steps as if to meet Ralph, having cast 
the cloak to the ground. 

Then Ralph saw that it was none other than the 
damsel of the hostelry of Bourton Abbas, and he came 
up to her and reached out his hand to her, and she 
took it in both hers and held it and said, smiling : 
^^ It is nought save mountains that shall never meet. 
Here have I followed on thy footsteps ; yet knew I 
not where thou wouldst be in the forest. And now I 
am glad to have fallen in with thee ; for I am going a 
Icmg way." 

Ralph looked on her and himseemed some p^n 
or shame touched his heart, and he said : ^* I am a 
knight adventurous ; I have nought to do save to seek 
adventures. Why should I not go with thee ? " 

She looked at him earnestly awhile and said: 
" Nay, it may not be ; thou art a lord's son, and I a 
yeoman's daughter." She stopped, and he said no- 
thing in answer. 

"Furthermore," said she , ** it is a long way, and I 
know not how long." Again he made no answer, 
and she said : ** I am going to seek the WELL AT 
TF^E WORLD'S END, and to find it and live, or 
to find it not, and die." 

He spake after a while : " Why should I not come 
withthee?" 

It was growing light now, and he could see that she 
reddened and then turned pale and set her lips close. 

Then she, said : '^ Because thou wiliest it not : be- 
cause thou hadst liefer make that journey with some 
one else." 

He reddened in his turn, and said : " I know of no 
one else who shall so with me." 

^ 60 



** Well," she said, ** it is all one, I will not have thee 
go with me." " Yea, and why not ? " said he. She 
said : *^Wilt thou swear to me that nought hadi 
happed to thee to change thee betwixt this and Bour- 
ton ? If thou wilt, then come with me ; if thou wilt 
not, then refrain thee. And this I say because I see 
and feel that there is some change in thee since yester- 
day, so that thou wouldst scarce be dealing truly in 
being my fellow in this quest : for they that take it 
up must be single-hearted, and think of nought save 
the quest and the fellow that is with them." 

She looked on him sadly, and his many thoughts 
tongue-tied him a while ; but at last he said : '^ Must 
thou verily go on this quest?'* "Ah," she ssud, 
**now since I have seen thee and spoken with thee 
s^ain, all need there is that I should follow it at once." 

Then they both kept silence, and when she spoke 
again her voice was as if she were gay against her 
will. She said : *' Here am I come to these want- 
ways, and there are three roads besides the one I came 
by, and I wot that this that goeth south will bring me 
to the Bui^ of the Four Friths ; and so much I know 
of the folk of the said Burg that they would mock at 
me if I asked them of the way to the Well at the 
World's End. And as for the western way I deem 
that that will lead me back again to the peopled parts 
whereof I know ; therefore I am minded to take the 
eastern way. What sayest thou, jfair lord ? '* 

Said Ralph : '^ I have heard of late that it leadeth 
j»iesently to Hampton under the Scaur, where dwelleth 
a people of goodwill." 

*' Who told thee this tale ? " said she. Ralph an- 
swered, reddening again, ^'I was toid by one who 
seemed to know both of that folk, and of the Burg 
<^ the Four Friths, and she said that the folk of 
Hampton were a good folk, and that they of the 
Burg were evil." 



The damsel smiled sadly when she heard him say 
* She/ and when he had done she said : '' And I have 
heard, and not from yesterday, that at Hampton 
dwelleth the Fellowship of the Dry Tree, and that 
those of that fellowship are robbers and reivers. 
Nevertheless they will perchance be little worse than 
the others ; and the tale tells that the way to the Well 
at the World's End is by the Dry Tree ; so thither 
will I at all adventure. And now will I say farewell 
to thee, for it is most Uke that I shall not see thee 
again." 

** O, maiden ! *' said Ralph, ** why wilt thou not 
go back to Bourton Abbas ? There I might soon 
meet thee again, and yet, indeed, I also am like to go 
to Hampton. Shall I not see thee there ? " 

She shook her head and ssud : '' Nay, since I must 
go so far, I shall not tarry ; and, sooth to say, if I saw 
thee coming in at one gate I should go out by the 
other, for why should I dally with a grief that may not 
be amended. For indeed I wot that thou shalt soon 
forget to wish to see me, either at Bourton Abbas or 
elsewhere; so I will say no more than once again 
ferewell." 

Then she came close to him and put her hands on 
his shoulders and kissed his moudi ; and then she 
turned away swiftly, caught up her cloak, and gat 
lightly into the saddle, and so shook her reins and 
rode away east toward Hampton, and left Ralph 
standing there downcast and pondering many things. 
It was still so early in the summer morning, and he 
knew so little what to do, that presently he turned and 
walked back to his Izir amongst the hazels, and there 
he lay down, and his thoughts by then were all gone 
back again to the lovely lady whom he had delivered, 
and he wondered if he should ever see her again, and, 
sooth to say, he sorely desired to see her. Amidst 
such thoughts he fell asleep again, for the night yet 

62 



owed him something of rest, so young as he was and 
so hard as he had toiled^ both body and mind^ during 
the past day. 

CHAPTER XI. NOW MUST RALPH RIDE 
FOR IT. 

WHEN he awoke again the sun was shining 
through the hazel leaves^ though it was yet 
early ; he arose and looked to his horse, and 
led him out of the hazel copse and stood and looked 
about him ; and to ! a man coming slowly through 
the wood on Ralph's right hand^ and making as it 
seemed for the want-way; he saw Ralph presently, 
and stopped, and bent a bow which he held in his 
hand, and then came towards him warily, with the 
arrow nocked. But Ralph went to meet him with his 
sword in his sheath, and leading Falcon by the rein, 
and the man stopped and took the shaft from the 
string : he had no armour, but there was a Uttle axe 
and a wood-knife in his girdle ; he was clad in home- 
spun, and looked like a carle of the country-side. 
Now he greeted Ralph, and Ralph gave him the sele 
of the day, and saw that the new-comer was both tall 
and strong, dark of skin and black-haired, but of a 
cheerful countenance. He spake frank and free to 
Ralph, and said: ^Whither away, lord, out of the 
woodland hall, and the dwelling of deer and strong- 
thieves ? I would that the deer would choose them a 
captwi, and gather head and destroy the thieves — and 
some few others with them." 

Said Ralph : ^ I may scarce tell thee till I know 
myself. Awhile ago I was minded for the Burg of the 
Four Friths ; but now I am for Hampton under Scaur." 

" Yea ? " said the carle, " when the De^ drives, to 
hell must we. " 

^' What meanest thou, good fellow i '! said Ralph ; 

63 



'^ Is Hampton then so evil an abode ? " And indeed 
it was in his mind that the adventure of the lady led 
captive bore some evil with it. 

Said the carle : "If thou wert not a stranger in 
these parts I need not to answer thy question ; but I 
will answer it presently, yet not till we have eaten, for 
I hunger, and have in this wallet both bread and 
cheese, and thou art welcome to a share thereof, if ^h/fu, 
hungerest also, as is most like, whereas thou art f o^pig 
and fresh coloured.'' 

^^ So it is," said Ralph, laughing, ^ and I also may 
help to spread this table in the wilderness, since there 
are yet some crumbs in my wallet. Let us sit down 
and fall to at once." 

<<By your leave. Sir Gentleman," said die carle, 
^ we will so a few yards further on, where there is a 
woodland brook, whereof we may drink when my 
bottle fkileth." 

^' Nay, I may better that," swi Ralphs " for I have 
wherewithal." ** Nevertheless," said the carle, " we 
will go thither, for here is it too open for so small a 
company as ours, since this want- way hath an ill name, 
and I shall lead thee whereas we shall be somewhat 
oat of the way of murder-carles. So come on, if thou 
trusteth in-me.'l 

Ralph yeasaid him, and they went together a fur- 
kmg from the want-way into a little hollow place 
wherethrough ran a clear stream betwixt thick-leaved 
alders. The carle led Ralph to the very lip of the 
water so that the bushes covered them ; there they sat 
down and drew what they had from their wallets, and 
90 fell to meat ; and amidst of the meat the carle said : 

" Fair Knight, as I suppose thou art one, I will ask 
thee if any neeid draweth thee to Hampton ? " 

Said Ralph : *' The need of giving the go-by to the 
Burg of the Four Friths, since I hear tell that the 
folk thereof be robbers and murderers." 



'^ Thou shalt find that out better, lord, by going 
thither ; but I shall tell thee, that diough men may 
slay and steal there time and time about, yet in regard 
to Hampton under Scaur, it is Heaven, wherein men 
sin not. And I am one who should know, for I have 
been long dwelling in Hell, that is Hampton ; and 
now am I escaped thence, and am minded for the 
Burg, if perchance I may be deemed there a man good 
enough to ride in their host, whereby I might avenge 
me somewhat on them that have undone me: some of 
whom mestemeth must have put in thy mouth that 
word against the Burg. Is it not so ? " 

^ Maybe," said Ralph, *^ for thou seemest to be a 
true man.'' No more he spake though he had half a 
mind to tell the carle all the tale of that adventure ; 
but something held him back when he thought of 
that lady and her fairness. Yet again his heart mis- 
gave him of what might betide that other maiden at 
Hampton, and he was unquiet, deeming that he must 
needs follow her thither. The carle looked on him 
curiously and somewhat anxiously, but Ralph's eyes 
were set on something that was not there; or else 
maybe had he looked closely on the carle he might 
have deemed that longing to avenge him whereof he 
spoke did not change his face much; for in truth 
there was little wrath in it. 

Now the carle said : '^ Thou hast a tale which thou 
deemest unmeet for my ears, as it well may be. Well, 
thou must speak, or refrain from speaking, what thou 
wilt ; but thou art so fair a young knight, and so 
blithe with a poor man, and withal I deem that thou 
mayest help me to some gain and good, that I will 
tell thee a true tale : and &rst that the Burg is a good 
town under a good lord, who is no tyrant nor op- 
pressor of peaceful men ; and that thou mayest dwell 
there in peace as to the folk thereof, who be good 
folk, albeit they be no dastards to let themselves be 

65 f 



cowed by murder-carles. And next I will tell thee 
that the folk of the town of Hampton be verily as 
harmless and innocent as sheep; but that they be 
under evil lords who are not their true lords, who lay 
heavy burdens on them and torment them even to the 
destroying of their lives : and lastly I will tell thee that 
I was one of those poor people, though not so much 
a sheep as the more part of them, therefore have these 
tyrants robbed me of my croft, and set another man 
in my house ; and me they would have slain had I not 
fled to the wood that it might cover me. And happy 
it was for me that I had neither wife, nor chick^ nor 
child, else had they done as they did with my brother, 
whose wife was too fair for him, since he dwelt at 
Hampton ; so that they took her away from him to 
make sport for them of the Dry Tree, who dwell in 
the Castle of the Scaur, who shall be thy masters if 
thou goest thither. 

^ This is my tale, and thine, I say, I ask not ; but I 
deem that thou shalt do ill if thou go not to the Burg 
either with me or by thyself alone ; either as a guest, 
or as a good knight to take service in their host/' 

Now so it was that Ralph was wary ; and this time 
he looked closely at the carle, and found that he 
spake coldly for a man with so much wrath in his 
heart ; therefore he was in doubt about the thing ; 
moreover he called to mind the words of the lady 
whom he had delivered, and her loveliness, and the kisses 
she had given him, and he was loth to find her a liar ; 
and he was loth also to think that the maiden of Bourton 
had betaken her to so evil a dwelling. So he said : 

" Friend, I know not that I must needs be a par- 
taker in the strife betwixt Hampton and the Burg, or 
go either to one or the other of these strongholds. Is 
there no other way out of this wood save by Hampton 
or the Burg ? or no other place anigh, where I may rest 
in peace awhile, and then go on mine own errands ? " 

66 



S^d the Gu-le: '^ There is a thorp that lieth some- 
what west of the Burg, which is called Apthoi^; 
but it is an open place^ not fenced, and is debateable 
ground, whiles held by them of the Burg, whiles by 
the Dry Tree ; and if thou tarry there, and they of the 
Dry Tree take thee, soon is thine errand sped ; and if 
they of the Burg take thee, then shalt thou be led into 
the Burg in worse case than thou wCuldest be if thou 
go thereto uncompelled. What sayest thou, there- 
fore? Who shall hurt thee in the Burg, a town 
which is under good and strong law, if thou be a true 
man, as thou seemest to be ? And if thou art seeking 
adventures, as may well be, thou shalt soon find them 
there ready to hand. I rede thee come with me to the 
Burg ; for, to say sooth, I shall find it somewhat easier 
to enter therein if I be in the company of thee, a 
knight and a lord." 

So Ralph considered and thought that there lay in- 
deed but little peril to him in the Burg, whereas both 
those men With whom he had striven were hushed for 
ever, and there was none else to tell the tale of the 
battle, save the lady, whose peril from them of the 
Burg was much greater than his ; and also he thought 
that if anything untoward befel, he had some one tb 
fall back on in old Oliver : yet on the other hand he 
had a hankering after Hampton under Scaur, where, 
to say sooth, he doubted not to see the lady again. 

So betwixt one thing and the other,speech hungon his 
lips awhile, when suddenly the carle said: '^ Hist ! thou 
hast left thy horse without the bushes, and he is whin- 
nying "(which indeed he was), "there is now no time 
to lose. To horse straightway, for certainly there arc 
folk at hand, and they may be foemen, and are most 
like to be." 

Therewith they both arose and hastened to where 
Falcon stood just outside the alder bushes, and Ralph 
leapt a-horseback without more ado, and the carle 

67 



waited no bidding to leap up behind him, and point- 
ing to a glade of the wood which led toward the high- 
way, cried out, " Spur that way, thither ! they of the 
Dry Tree are abroad this morning. Spur ! 'tis for 
life or death ! " 

Ralph shook the rein and Falcon leapt away with- 
out waiting for the spur, while the carle looked over 
his shoulder and said, '* Yonder they come ! they are 
three; and ever they ride well horsed. Nay, nay! 
diey are four," quoth he, as a shout sounded behind 
them. ^' Spur, young lord ! spur ! And thine horse 
is a mettiesome beast. Yea, it will do, it will do." 

Therewith came to Ralph's ears the sound of their 
horse-hoofs beating the turf, and he spurred indeed, 
and Falcon flew forth. 

"Ah," cried the carle ! "but take heed, for they see 
that thy horse is good, and one of them, the last, hath 
a bent Turk bow in his hand, and is laying an arrow 
on it ; as ever their wont is to shoot a-horseback : a turn 
of thy rein, as if thine horse were shying at a weasel 
on the road ! '* 

Ralph stooped his head and made Falcon swerve, 
and heard therewith the twang of the bowstring and 
straightway the shaft flew past his ears. Falcon gal- 
loped on, and the carle cried out : " There is the high- 
way toward the Burg ! Do thy best, do thy best ! 
Lo you again ! " 

For the second shaft flew from the Turkish bow, 
and the noise of the chase was loud behind them. Once 
again twanged the bow-string, but this time the arrow 
fell short, and the woodland man, turning himself 
about as well as he might, shook his clenched fist at the 
chase, crying out in a voice broken by the gallop : 
" Ha, thieves ! I am Roger of the Rope-walk, I go 
to twist a rope for the necks of you ! " 

Then he spake to Ralph : " They are turning back : 
they are beaten, and withal they love not the open 

68 



road : yet slacken not yet, young knight, unless thou 
lovest thine horse more than thy life ; for they will 
follow on through the thicket on the way-side to see 
whether thou wert born a fool and hast learned no- 
thing later." 

" Yea," said Ralph, " and now I deem thou wilt tell 
me that to the Burg I needs must" 

" Yea, forsooth," said the carle, " nor shall we be 
long, riding thus, ere we come to the Burg Gate." 

" Yea, or even slower," said Ralph, drawing rein 
somewhat, '^ for now I deem the chase done : and after 
all is said, I have no will to slay Falcon, who is one 
of my friends, as thou perchance mayest come to be 
another." 

Thereafter he went a hand-gallop till the wood began 
to thin, and there were fields of tillage about the high- 
way ; and presently Roger said : " Thou mayst breathe 
thy nag now, and ride single^ for we are amidst friends ; 
not even a score of the Ehy Tree dare ride so nigh 
the Burg save by night and cloud." 

So Ralph stayed his horse, and he and Roger lighted 
down, and Ralph looked about him and saw a stone 
tower builded on a little knoll amidst a wheatfield, 
and below it some simple houses thatched with straw ; 
there were folk moreover working, or coming and going 
about the fields, who took little heed of the two when 
they saw them standing quiet by the horse's head ; but 
each and all of these folk, so far as could be seen, had 
some weapon. 

Then said Ralph : '^ Good fellow, is this the Burg 
of the Four Friths ? " The carle laughed, and said : 
^* Simple is the question. Sir Knight : yonder is a watch- 
tower of the Burg, whereunder husbandmen can live, 
because there be men-at-arms therein. And all round 
the outskirts of the Frank of the Burg are there such- 
like towers to the number of twenty-seven. For that, 
say folk, was the tale of the winters of the Fair Lady 

69 



who ercwhile began the building of the Burg, when 
she was first wedded to the Forest Lord, who before 
that building had dwelt, he and his fathers, in thatched 
halls of timber here and there about the clearings of 
the wildwood. But now, knight, if thou wilt, thou 
mayest go on softly toward the Gate of the Burg, and 
if thou wilt I will walk beside thy rein, which fellow- 
ship, as aforesaid, shall be a gain to me/' 

Said Ralph : " I pray thee come with me, good 
fellow, and show me how easiest to enter this strong- 
hold." So, when Falcon was well breathed, they went 
on, passing through goodly acres and wide meadows, 
with here and there a homestead on them, and here 
and there a carle's cot. Then came they to a thorp of 
the smallest on a rising ground, from the further end 
of which they could see the walls and towers of the 
Burg. Thereafter right up to the walls were no more 
houses or cornfields, nought but reaches of green mea- 
dows plenteously stored with sheep and kine, and with 
a little stream winding about them. 

CHAPTER XII. RALPH ENTERETH INTO 
THE BURG OF THE FOUR FRITHS. 

WHEN they came up to the wall they saw 
that it was well builded of good ashlar, and 
so high that they might not see the roofs of 
the town because of it ; but there Vere tall towers on 
it, a many of them, strong and white. The road led up 
str^ght to the master-gate of the Burg, and there was 
a bailey before it strongly walled, and manned with 
weaponed men, and a captain going about amongst 
them. But they entered it along with men bringing 
wares into the town, and none heeded them much, till 
they came to the very gate, on the further side of a 
moat that was both deep and clean ; but as now the 
bridge was down and the portcullis up, so that the 

70 



19 



market-people might pass in easily, for it was yet early 
in the day. But before the door on either side stood 
men-at-arms well weaponed, and on the right side w^ 
their captain, a tall man with bare grizzled head, but 
otherwise all-armed, who stopped every one whom he 
knew not, and asked their business. 

As Ralph came riding up with Roger beside him, 
one of the guard laid his spear across and bade them 
stand, and the captain spake in a dry cold voice : 
*^ Whence comest thou, man-at-arms i " " From the 
Abbey of St Mary at Higham," said Ralph. " Yea," 
said the captain, smiling grimly, ^'even so I might 
have deemed : thou wilt be one of the Lord Abbot's 
lily lads." "No I am not," quoth Ralph angrily. 
•* Well, well," said the captain, " what is thy name i 

"Ralph Motherson," quoth Ralph, knitting his 
brow. Said the captain " And whither wilt thou ? " 
Said Ralph, " On mine own errands." ** Thou an- 
swerest not over freely," quoth the captain. Said 
Ralph, "Then is it even; for thou askest freely 
enough." " Well, well," said the captain, grinning in 
no unfriendly wise, " thou seemest a stout lad enough ; 
and as to my asking, it is my craft as captain of the 
North Gate : but now tell me friendly, goest thou to 
any kinsman or friend m the Burg ? " 

Then Ralph's brow cleared and he said, "Nay, fair 
sir." "Well then," said the captgun, "art thou but 
riding straight through to another gate, and so away 
again .^" "Nay," sdd Ralph, "if I may, I would 
abide here the night over, or may-happen longer." 
" Therein thou shalt do well, young man," said the 
captain ; " then I suppose thou wilt to some hostelry ? 
tell me which one." 

S^d Ralph, " Nay, I wot not to which one, knowing 
not the town." But Roger close by him spake and 
said : " My lord shall go to the Flower de Luce, which 
is in the big square." 

71 



"Truly," said the captain, "he goes to a good 
harbour ; and moreover, fair sir, to-morrow thou shalt 
see a goodly sight from thine inn ; thou mayst do no 
better, lord. But thou, carle, who art thou, who 
knowest the inside of our Burg so well, though I 
know thee not, for as well as I know our craftsmen 
and vavassors ? " 

Then Roger's words hung on his lips awhile, and the 
knight bent his brow on him, till at last he said, ^* Sir 
Captain, I was minded to lie, and say that I am this 
young knight's serving-man." The captain broke in 
on him grimly, " Thou wert best not lie." 

" Yea, sir," quoth Roger, " I deemed, as it was 
on my tongue's end, that thou wouldst find me out, 
so I have nought to do but tell thee the very sooth: 
this it is : I am a man made masterless by the thieves 
of the Dry Tree. From my land at Hampton under 
Scaur have I been driven, my chattels have been lifted, 
and my friends slain; and therefore by your leave 
would I ride in the host of the Burg, that I may pay 
back the harm which I had, according to the saw, 
* better bale by breeding bale.' So, lord, I ask thee 
wilt thou lend me the sword and give me the loaf, that 
I may help both thee, and the Burg, and me ? " 

The captain looked at him closely and sharply, while 
the carle faced him with open simple eyes, and at last 
he said : "Well, carle, thou wert about to name thyself 
this young knight's serving-man ; be thou even so 
whiles he abideth in the Burg ; and when he leaveth 
the Burg then come back to me here any day before 
noon, and may be I shall then put a sword in thy fist 
and horse between thy thighs. But," (and he wagged 
his head threateningly at Roger) " see that thou art 
at the Flower de Luce when thou art called for." 

Roger held his peace and seemed somewhat abashed 
at this word, and the captain turned to Ralph and 
said courteously : " Young knight/if thou art -seeking 

72 



adventures, thou shalt find them in our host; and if 
thou be but half as wise as thou seemest bold, thou 
wilt not fail to gain honour and wealth both, in the 
service of the Burg ; for we be overmuch beset with 
foemen that we should not welcome any wight and 
wary warrior, though he be an alien of blood and 
land. If thou thinkest well of this, then send me 
thy man here and give me word of thy mind, and I 
shall lead thee to the chiefs of the Port, and make the 
way easy for thee." 

Ralph thanked him and rode through the gate into 
the street, and Roger still went beside his stirrup. 

Presently Ralph turned to Roger and spake to 
him somewhat sourly, and said: '^Thou hadst one 
lie in thy mouth and didst swallow it; but how 
shall I know that another did not come out thence ? 
Withal thou must needs be my fellow here, will I, nill 
I ; for thou it was that didst put that word into the 
captain's mouth that thou shouldst serve me while I 
abide in the Burg. So I will say here and now, that 
my mind misgives me concerning thee, whether thou 
be not of those very thieves and tyrants whom thou 
didst mis-say but a little while ago." 

" Yea," said Roger, " thou art wise indeed to set me 
down as one of the Dry Tree ; doubtless that is why I 
delivered thee from their ambush even now. And as 
for my service, thou mayst need it ; for indeed I deem 
thee not so safe as thou deemest thyself in this Burg." 

'« What ! " said Ralph, *' Dost thou blow hot and 
cold ? why even now, when we were in the wood, 
thou wert telling me that I had nought at all to fear 
in the Burg of tiie Four Friths, and that all was done 
there by reason and with justice. What is this new 
thing then which thou hast found out, or what is that 
I have to fear?" 

Roger changed countenance thereat and seemed 
somewhat confused, as one who has. been caught.. uo- 

73 



awares ; but he gat his own face presently, and said : 
" Nay, Sir Knight, I will tell thee the truth right out. 
In the wood yonder thy danger was great that thou 
mightest run into the hands of them of the Dry Tree ; 
therefore true it is that I spake somewhat beyond 
my warrant concerning the life of the folk of the Burg, 
as how could I help it ? But surely whatever thy peril 
may be here, it is nought to that which awaited thee 
at Hampton." 

" Nay, but what is the peril ? " said Ralph. Quoth 
Roger^ '^ If thou wilt become their man and enter into 
their host, there is none ; for they will ask few ques- 
tions of so good a man-at-arms, when they know that 
thou art theirs ; but if thou naysay that, it may well be 
that they will be for turning the key on thee till thou 
tellest them what and whence thou art." Ralph an- 
swered nought, thinking in his mind that this was like 
enough ; so he rode on soberly, till Roger said : 

'^ Anyhow, thou mayst turn the cold shoulder on me 
if thou wilt. Yet were I thee, I would not, for so it is, 
both that I can help thee, as I deem, in time to come, 
and that I have helped thee somewhat in time past." 

Now Ralph was young and could not abide the 
blame of thanklessness ; so he said, <' Nay, nay, fellow, 
go we on together to the Flower de Luce." 

Roger nodded his head and grumbled somewhat, 
and they made no stay except that now and again 
Ralph c^w rein to look at goodly things in the street, 
for there were many open booths therein, so that the 
whole street looked like a market. The houses were 
goodly of building, but not very tall, the ways wide 
and well-paved. Many folk were in the street, going 
up and down on their errands, and both men and 
women of them seemed to Ralph stout and strong, but 
not very fair of favour. Withal they seemed intent on 
their business^ and payed little heed to Ralph and his 
fellow, though he was by his attire plainly a stranger. 

74 



Now Ralph sees a house more gaily adorned than 
most, and a sign hung out from it whereon was done 
an image of St Loy^and underneath the same a booth 
on which was set out weapons and war-gear exceeding 
goodly ; and two knaves of the armourer were stand- 
ing by to serve folk, and crying their wares with 
•* what d'ye lack ? " from time to time. So he stayed 
and fell to looking wistfully at the gleam and glitter 
of those fair things, till one of the aforesaid knaves 
came to his side and said : 

'^ Fair Sir, surely thou lackest somewhat ; what have 
we here for thy needs ? " So Ralph thought and called 
to mind that strong little steel axe of the man whom 
he had slain yesterday, and asked for the sight of such 
a weapon, if he might perchance cheapen it. And the 
lad brought a very goodly steel axe, gold-inlaid about 
the shaft, and gave him the price thereof, which Ralph 
deemed he might compass ; so he brought round his 
scrip to his hand, that he might take out the money. 
But while his hand was yet in the bag, out comes the 
master-armourer, a tall and very stark carle, and said 
in courteous wise : '^ Sir Knight, thou art a stranger 
to me and I know thee not ; so I must needs ask for a 
sight of thy license to buy weapons, under the seal of 
the Burg/' 

" Hear a wonder,*' said Ralph, '* that a free man 
for his money shall not buy wares set out to be bought, 
unless he have the Burg-Reeve's hand and seal for it ! 
Nay, take thy florins, master, and give me the axe 
and let the jest end there." "I jest not, young rider," 
quoth the armourer. "When we know thee for a liege- 
man of the Burg, thou shalt buy what thou wilt with- 
out question ; but otherwise I have told thee the law, 
and how may I, the master of the craft, break the law ? 
Be not wrath, fair sir, I will set aside thine axe for thee, 
till thou bring me the license, or bid me come see it, 
and thou shalt get the said license at the Town Hall 

75 



straightway, when they may certify thee no foeman of 
the Sui^." 

Ralpn saw that it availed nothing to bicker with 
the smith, and so went his way somewhat crestfallen, 
and that the more as he saw Roger grinning a little. 

Now they come into the market-place, on one side 
whereof was the master church of the town, which 
was strongly built and with a tall tower to it, but 
was not very big, and but little adorned. Over against 
it they saw the sign of the Flower de Luce, a goodly 
house and great. Thitherward they turned ; but in 
the face of the hostelry amidmost the place was a thing 
which Roger pointed at with a grin that spoke as well 
as words ; and this was a high gallows-tree furnished 
with four forks or arms, each carved and wrought in 
the fashion of the very bough of a tree, from which 
dangled four nooses, and above them all was a board 
whereon was written in big letters THE DRY TREE. 
And at the foot of this gallows were divers folk laugh- 
ing and talking. 

So Ralph understood at once that those four men 
whom he had seen led away bound yesterday should 
be hanged thereon ; so he stayed a franklin who was 
passing by, and said to him, ^ Sir, I am a stranger 
in the town, and I would know if justice shall be done 
on the four woodmen to-day." " Way," said the man, 
" but to-morrow ; they are even now before the judges." 

Then said Roger in a surly voice, " Why art thou 
not there to look on ? " ** Because,'' quoth the man, 
" there is little to see there, and not much more to 
hearken. The thieves shall be speedily judged, and 
not questioned with torments, so that they may be the 
lustier to feel what the hangman shall work on them 
to-morrow ; then forsooth the show shall be goodly. 
But far better had it been if we had had in our hands 
the great witch of these dastards, as we looked to have 
her ; but now folk say that she has not batn brought 

76 



within gates^ and it is to be feared that she hath 
slipped through our fingers once more.** 

Roger laughed^ and said : ^^ Simple are ye folk of 
the Burg, and know nought of her shifts. I tell thee 
it is not unlike that she is in the Bui^ even now, and 
hath in hand to take out of your prison the four whom 
ye have caught." 

The franklin laughed scornfully in his turn and 
s^d: ''If we be simple, thou art a fool merely: are 
we not stronger and more than the Dry Tree ? How 
should she not be taken? How should she not be 
known if she were walking about these streets ? Have 
we no eyes, fool-carle ? '* And he laughed again, for 
he was wroth. 

Ralph hearkened, and a kind of fear seemed griping 
his heart, so he asked the franklin : " Tell me, sir, are 
ye two speaking of a woman who is Queen of these 
strong-thieves ? " " Yea," said he, " or it might bet- 
ter be said that she is their goddess, their mawmet, 
their devil, the very heart and soul of their wicked- 
ness. But one day shall we have her body and soul, 
and then shall her body have but an evil day of it till 
she dieth in this world." 

'' Yea, forsooth, if she can die at all," quoth Roger. 

The franklin looked sourly on him and said : ^^ Good 
man, thou knowest much of her, meseemeth — Whence 
art thou ? " Said Roger speedily : ** From Hampton 
under Scaur ; and her rebel I am, and her dastard, and 
her runaway. Therefore I know her forsooth." 

''Well," the Franklin said, "thou seemest a true 
man, and yet I would counsel thee to put a rein on 
thy tongue when thou art minded to talK of the Devil 
of the Dry Tree, or thou mayst come to harm in the 
Burg." 

He walked away towards the gallows therewith ; and 
Roger said, almost as if he were talking to himself; 
" A heavy-^ted fool goeth yonder ; but after this talk 

77 



we were better hidden by the walls of the Flower-de- 
Luce." So therewith they went on toward the hostel. 

But the market place was wide, and they were 
yet some minutes getting to the door, and ere they 
came there Ralph said, knitting his brows anxiously : 
** Is this woman fiur or foul to look on ? " " That is 
nought so easy to tell of," said Roger, ^' whiles she 
is foul, whiles very fair, whiles young and whiles old ; 
whiles cruel and whiles kind. But note this, when 
she is the kindest then are her carles the cruellest; and 
she is the kinder to them because they are cruel." 

Ralph pondered what he said, and wondered if this 
were verily the woman whom he had delivered, or 
some other. As if answering to his unspoken thought, 
Roger went on : ** They speak but of one woman 
amongst them of the Dry Tree, but in sooth they 
have many others who are like unto her in one way 
or other; and this again is a reason why they may 
not lay hands on the very Queen of them all." 

Therewithal they came unto the hostel, ^d found 
it fair enough within, the hall great and goodly for 
such a house, and with but three chapmen-carles 
therein. Straightway they called for meat, for it was 
now past noon, and the folk of the house served them 
when the grooms had taken charge of Falcon. And 
Roger served Ralph as if he were verily his man. Then 
Ralph went to his chamber aloft and rested a while, 
but came down into the hall a little before nones, and 
found Roger there walking up and down the hall floor, 
and no man else, so he said to him : '^ Though thou art 
not of the Burg, thou knowest it ; wilt thou not come 
abroad then, and show it me ? for I have a mind to 
learn the ways of the folk here." 

Said Roger, and smiled a little : '^ If thou com- 
mandest me as my lord, I will come ; yet I were better 
pleased to abide behind ; for I am weary with night- 
waking and sorrow ; and have a burden of thought, 

78 



one which I must bear to the endof the road ; and if I put 
it down I shall have to go back and take it up again/' 

Ralph thought that he excused himself with more 
words than were needed ; but he took little heed of it, 
but nodded to him friendly, and went out of the house 
afoot, but left his weapons and armour behind him by 
the rede of Roger. 

CHAPTER XIII. THE STREETS OF THE 
BURG OF THE FOUR FRITHS. 

HE went about the streets and found them all 
much like to the one which they had entered 
by the north gate ; he saw no poor or wretched 
houses, and none very big as of great lords; they were 
well and stoutly builded, but as aforesaid not much 
adorned either with carven work or painting: there 
were folk enough in the streets, and now Ralph, as was 
like to be, looked specially at the women, and thought 
many of them little better-favoured than the men, 
being both dark and low; neither were they gaily 
clad, though their raiment, like the houses, was stout 
and well wrought. But here and there he came on a 
woman taller and whiter than the others, as though she 
were of another blood ; all such of these as he saw 
were clad otherwise than the darker women : their 
heads uncoifed, uncovered save for some garland 
or silken band ; their gowns yellow like wheat-straw, 
but gaily embroidered; sleeveless withal and short, 
scarce reaching to the ancles, and whiles so thin that 
they were rather clad with the embroidery than the 
doth ; shoes they had not^ but sandals bound on their 
naked feet with white thOngs^ and each bore an iron 
ring about her right arm. 

The more part of the men wore weapons at 
their sides and had staves^ in hand, and were clad in 
short jerkins brown or blue of colour, and looked 

79 



'♦; 



ready for battle if any moment should call them 
thereto ; but among them were men of different favour 
and stature from these, taller for the most part^ un- 
armed, and clad in long gowns of fair colours with 
cloths of thin and gay-coloured web twisted about their 
heads. These he took for merchants, as they were 
oftenest standing in and about the booths and shops, 
whereof there were some in all the streets, though the 
market for victuals and such like he found over for 
that day, and but scantily peopled. 

Out of one of these markets, which was the fish and 
fowl market, he came into a long street that led him 
down to a gate right over against that whereby he had 
entered the Burg ; and as he came thereto he saw that 
there was a wide way clear of all houses inside of the wall, 
so that men-at-arms might go freely from one part to the 
other ; and he had also noted that a wide way led from 
each ort out of the great place, and each ended not but 
in a gate. But as to any castle in the town, he saw 
none ; and when he asked a burgher thereof, the carle 
laughed in his face, and s^d to him that the whole 
Burg, houses and all, was a castle, and that it would 
turn out to be none of the easiest to win. And forsooth 
Ralph himself was much of that mind. 

Now he was just within the south gate when he 
held this talk, and there were many folk thereby 
already, and more flocking thereto ; so he stood there 
to see what should betide ; and anon he heard great 
blowing of horns and tnmipets all along the wall, and, 
as he deemed, other horns answered from without ; 
and so it was ; for soon the withoutward horns grew 
louder, and the folk fell back on either side of the 
way, and next the gates were thrown wide open (which 
before had been shut save for a wicket) and thereafter 
came the first of a company of men-at-arms, foot-men, 
with bills some, and some with bows, and all-armed 
knights and sergeants a-horseback. 

80 



So streamed in these weaponed men till Ralph saw 
that it was a great host that was entering the Burg ; 
and his heart rose within him, so warrior-like they were 
of men and array, though no big men of their bodies ; 
and many of them bore signs of battle about them, 
both in the battering of their armour and the rending 
of their raiment, and the clouts tied about the wounds 
on their bodies. 

After a while among the warriors came herds of 
neat and flocks of sheep and strings of horses, of the 
spoil which the host had lifted ; and then wains filled, 
some with weapons and war gear, and some with bales 
of goods and household stuff. Last came captives, 
some going afoot and some for weariness borne in 
wains; for all these war-taken thralls were women 
and women-children ; of males there was not so much 
as a little lad. Of the .women many seemed f^r to 
Ralph despite their grief and travel ; and as he looked 
on them he deemed that they must be of the kindred 
and nation of the fair white women he had seen in 
the streets ; though they were not clad like those, but 
diversely. 

So Ralph gazed on this pageant till all had passed, 
and he was weary with the heat and the dust and 
the confused clamour of shouting and laughter and 
talking ; and whereas most of the folk followed after 
the host and their spoil, the streets of the town there- 
about were soon left empty and peaceful. So he 
turned into a street narrower than most, that went 
east from the South Gate and was much shaded from 
the afternoon sun, and went slowly down it, meaning 
to come about the inside of the wall till he should hit 
the East Gate, and so into the Great Place when the 
folk should have gone their ways home. 

He saw no folk in the street save here and there an 
old woman sitting at the door of her house, and may- 
be a young child with her. As he came to where the 

8i c 



street turned somewhat, even such a carline was sitting 
on a clean white door-step on the sunny side, some- 
what shaded by a tall rose-laurel tree in a great tub, 
and she sang as she sat spinning, and Ralph stayed to 
listen in his idle mood, and he heard how she sang in 
a dry, harsh voice : 

Clashed sword on shield 

In the harvest field ; 

And no man blames 

The red red flames. 

War's candle-wick 

On roof and rick. 

Now dead lies the yeoman 

unwept and unknown 

On the field he hath furrowed, 

the ridge he hath sown : 

And all in the middle 

of wethers and neat 

The maidens are driven 

with blood on their feet ; 

For yet 'twixt the Burg-gate 

and battle half-won 

The dust-driven highway 

creeps uphill and on. 

And the smoke of the beacons 

goes coiling aloft. 

While the gathering horn bloweth 

loud^ louder and oft. 

Throw wide the gates 
For nought night waits ; 
Though the chase is dead 
The moon 's o'erhead 
And we need the clear 
Our spoil to share. 
Shake the lots in the helm then 
for brethren are we, 

8a 



And the goods of my missing 

are gainful to thee. 

Lo ! thine are the wethers, 

and his are the kine ; 

And the colts of the marshland 

unbroken are thine, 

With the dapple-grey stallion 

that trampled his groom ; 

And Giles hath the gold-blossomed 

rose of the loom. 

Lo ! leaps out the last lot 

and nought have I won. 

But the maiden unmerry, 

by battle undone. 

Even as her song ended came one of those fair 
yellow-gowned damsels round the comer of the street, 
bearing in her hand a light basket full of flowers : and 
she lifted up her head and beheld Ralph there ; then 
she went slowly and dropped her eyelids, and it was 
pleasant to Ralph to behold her ; for she was as fair 
as need be. Her corn-coloured gown was dainty and 
thin, and but for its silver embroidery had hidden her 
limbs but little ; the rosiness of her ancles showed 
amidst her white sandal-thongs, and there were silver 
rings and gold on her arms along with the iron ring. 

Now she lifted up her eyes and looked shyly at Ralph, 
and he smiled at her well-pleased, and deemed it would 
be good to hear her voice ; so he went up to her and 
greeted her, and she seemed to take his greeting well, 
though she glanced swiftly at the carline in the doorway. 

Said Ralph : " Fair maiden, I am a stranger in this 
town, and have seen things I do not wholly understand ; 
now wilt thou tell me before I ask the next question, 
who will be those war-taken thralls whom even now I 
saw brought into the Burg by the host ? of what nation 
be they, and of what kindred ? *' 

83 



Straightway was the damsel all changed ; she left her 
dainty tricks, and drew herself ap straight and stiff. She 
looked at him in the eyes, flushing red, and with knit 
brows, a moment, and then passed by him with swift 
and firm feet as one both angry and ashamed. 

But the carline who had beheld the two with a grin 
on her wrinkled face changed aspect also, and cried out 
fiercely after the damsel, and said : " What ! dost thou 
flee from the fair young man, and he so Idnd and soft 
with thee^ thou jade ? Yea, I suppose thou dost fetch 
and carry for some mistress who is young and a fool, 
and who has not yet learned how to deal with the daugh- 
ters of thine accursed folk. Ah ! if I had but money 
to buy some one of you, and a good one, she should do 
something else forme than showing her fairness to young 
men ; and I would pay her for her long legs and her 
white skin, till she should curse her fate that she had not 
been bom little and dark-skinned and free, and with 
heels un-bloodied with the blood of her back." 

Thus she went on, though the damsel was long out 
of ear-shot of her curses ; and Ralph tarried not to get 
away fiom her spiteful babble, which he now partly un- 
derstood ; and that all those yellow-clad damsels were 
thralls to the folk of the Burg ; and belike were of the 
kindred of those captives late-taken whom he had seen 
amidst the host at its entering into the Burg. 

So he wandered away thence thinking on what he 
should do till the sun was set, and he had come 
into the open space underneath the walls, and had 
gone along it till he came to the East Gate: there he 
looked around him a little and found people flowing 
back' from the Great Place, whereto they had gathered 
to see the host mustered and the spoil blessed ; then 
he went on still under the wall, and noted not that 
here and there a man turned about to look upon him 
curiously, for he was deep in thought, concerning the 
things which he had seen and heard of, and pondered 

84 



much what might have befallen his brethren since they 
sundered at the Want-way nigh to the High House 
of Upmeads. Withal the chief thing that he desired 
was to get him away fiom the Burg, for he felt him- 
self uno'ee therein ; and he said to himself that if he 
were forced to dwell among this folk, that he had 
better never have stolen himself away from his father 
and mother; and whiles even he thought that he 
would do his best on the morrow to get him back 
home to Upmeads again. But then when he thought 
of how his life would go in his old home, there seemed 
to him a lack, and when he questioned himself as to 
what that lack was, straightway he seemed to see that 
Lady of the Wildwood standing before the men-at- 
arms in her scanty raiment the minute before his life 
was at adventure because of them. And in sooth he 
smiled to himself then with a beating heart, as he told 
himself that above all things he desired to see that 
I^y, whatever she might be, and that he would 
follow his adventure to the end until he met her. 

Amidst these thoughts he came unto the North 
Gate, whereby he had first entered the Burg, and 
by then it was as dark as the summer night woidd be; 
so he woke up from his dream, as it were, and took 
his way briskly back to the Flower de Luce. 

CHAPTER XIV. WHAT RALPH HEARD 
OF THE MATTERS OF THE BURG OF 
THE FOUR FRITHS. 

THERE was no candle in the hall when he en- 
tered, but it was not so dark therein but he 
might see Roger sitting on a stool near the 
chimney, and opposite to him on the settle sat two 
men ; one very tall and big, the other small ; Roger was 
looking away from these, and whistling ; and it came 
into Ralph's mind that he would have mm think that 

85 



he had nought to do with them, whether that were so 
or not. But he turned round as Ralph came up the 
hall and rose and came up to him, and fell to talking 
with him and asking him hoW he liked the Burg; and 
ever he spake fast and loud, so that again it came on 
Ralph that he was playing a part. 

Ralph heeded him little, but ever looked through 
the hail-dusk on those twain, who presently arose 
and went toward the hall door, but wheii they were but 
half-way across the floor a chamberlain came in sud- 
denly, bearing candles in his hands, and the light fell 
on those guests and flashed back from a salade on the 
head of the big man, and Ralph saw that he was clad 
in a long white gaberdine, and he deemed that he was 
the very man whom he had seen last in the Great Place 
at Higham, nigh the church, and before that upon the 
road. As for the smaller man Ralph had no knowledge 
of him, for he could see but little of his face, whereas 
he was wrapped up in a cloak, for as warm as the 
evening was, and wore a slouch hat withal ; but his eyes 
seemed great and wondrous bright. 

But when they were gone Rdph asked Roger if he 
knew aught of them, or if they had told him aught. 
** Nay," said Roger, " they came in here as I sat alone, 
and had their meat, and spake nought to me, and little 
to each other. I deem them not to be of the Burg. 
Nay, sooth to say, I doubt if they be true men." 

As he spake came in a sort of the townsmen some- 
what merry and noisy, and called for meat and drink 
and more lights ; so that the board was brought and the 
hall was speedily astir. These men, while supper was 
being dight, fell to talking to Ralph and Roger, and 
asking them questions of whence and whither, but no- 
wise uncourteously: to whom Roger answered with the 
tale which he had told Ralph, and Ralph told what he 
would, and that was but little. 

But when the board was dight they bade them sit 

86 



down with them and eat. Ralph sat down at once, and 
Roger would have served him, but Ralph bade him do 
it not^ and constrained him to sit by his side, and they 
two sat a little apart from the townsmen. 

So when they had eaten their fill, and wine was 
brought, and men were drinking kindly, Ralph began 
to ask Roger concerning those women whom he had 
seen in the street, and the captives whom he had seen 
brought in by the host, and if they were of one kin- 
dred, and generally how it was with them : and he 
spake somewhat softly as if he would not break into 
the talk of the townsmen : but Roger answered him in 
a loud voice so that all could hear : 

** Yea, lord, I will tell thee the tale of them, which 
setteth forth well both the wise policy and the great 
mercy of the folk of the Burg and their rulers." 

S^d Ralph : " Are these women also of the Dry 
Tree ? For I perceive them to be born of the foes of 
the Burg." 

Now the townsmen had let their talk drop a while to 
listen to the talk of the aliens ; and Roger answered still 
in a loud voice : ** Nay, nay, it is not so. These queens 
are indeed war-taken thralls, but not from them of the 
Dry Tree, or they would have been slain at once, like as 
the carles of those accursed ones. But these are of the 
folk of the Wheat-wearers, even as those whom thou 
sawest brought to-day amidst the other spoil. And to 
this folk the Burg showeth mercy, and whenso the host 
goeth against them and overcometh (and that is well- 
nigh whenever they meet) these worthy lords slay no 
woman of them, but the men only, whether they be 
old or young or youngest. As for their women they 
are brought hither and sold at the market-cross to the 
highest bidder. And this honour they have, that 
such of them as be fa'u*, and that is the more part of 
the younger ones, fetch no ill penny. Yet for my part 
I were loth to cheapen such wares : for they make 

87 



but evil servants^ being proud, and not abiding stripes 
lightly, or toiling the harder for them ; and they be 
somewhat too handy with the knife if they deem them- 
selves put upon. Speak I sooth, my masters ? " quoth 
he, turning toward them of the town. 

Said a burgher somewhat stricken in years," Nought 
but sooth ; peaceable men like to me eschew such 
servants ; all the more because of this, that if one of 
these queens misbehave with the knife, or strayeth 
from her master's bed, the laws of the Burg meddle 
not therein. For the wise men say that such folk are 
no more within the law than kine be, and may not 
for their deeds be brought before leet or assize any 
more than kine. So that if the master punish her 
not for her misdoings, unpunished she needs must go ; 
yea even if her deed be mere murder." 

** That is sooth," said a somewhat younger man ; 
"yet whiles it fareth ill with them at the hands of our 
women. To wit, my father's brother has even now 
come from the war to find his thrall all spo'dt by his 
wife : and what remedy may he have against his wife? 
his money is gone, even as if she had houghed his 
horse or his best cow." 

" Yea," said a third, " we were better without such 
cattle. A thrust with a sword and all the tale told, 
were the better way of dealing with them. " 

Said another ; ** Yet are the queens good websters, 
and, lacking them, figured cloth of silk would be far- 
fetched and dear-bought here." 

A young man gaily clad, who had been eyeing the 
speakers disdainfully, spake next and said : " Fair sirs, 
ye are speaking like hypocrites, and as if your law- 
ful wives were here to hearken to you ; whereas ye 
know well how goodly these thtalls be, and that 
many of them can be kind enough withal ; and ye 
would think yourselves but ill bestea.d if ye might not 
cheapen such jewels for your money. Which of you 

88 



will go to the Crossnext Saturday and there buy him. 
a fairer wife than he can wed out of our lineages ? 
and a wife withal of whose humours he need take no 
more account of than the dullness of his hound or the 
skittish temper of his mare, so long as the thong 
smarts, and the twigs sting." 

One or two grinned as he spake, but some bent 
their brows at him, yet scarce in earnest, and the talk 
thereover dropped, nor did Ralph ask any moro 
questions ; for he was somewhat down-hearted, callinj 
to mind the frank and free maidens of Upmead, an< 
their friendly words and hearty kisses. And him- 
seemed the world was worse than he had looked to 
find it. 

Howsoever, the oldest and soberest of the guests, 
seeing that he was a stranger and of noble aspect, 
came unto him and sat by him, and fell to telling 
him tales of the wars of the men of the Burg with 
the Wheat-wearers ; and how in time past, when the 
town was but little fenced, the Wheat-wearers had 
stormed their gates and taken the city, and had made 
a great slaughter ; but yet had spared many of the 
fighting-men, although they had abided there as the 
masters of them, and held them enthralled for three 
generations of men : after which time the sons' sons 
of the old Burg-dwellers having grown very many 
again, and divers of them being trusted in sundry 
matters by the conquerors, who oppressed them but 
little, rose up against them as occasion served, in the 
winter season and the Yule feast, and slew their 
masters, save for a few who were hidden away. 

** And thereafter," quoth he, *' did we make the 
Burg strong and hard to win, as ye see it to-day ; and 
we took for our captain the Forest Lord, who erc- 
while had dwelt in the clearings of the wildwood, and 
he wedded the Fair Lady who was the son's daughter 
of him who had been our IcMrd* ere the Wheat-wcaicrs 

89 



overcame us ; and we grew safe and free and mighty 
again. And the son of the Forest Lord, he whom we 
call the War-smith, he it was who beheld the Burg too 
much given to pleasure, and delighting in the softness 
of life ; and he took order to harden our hearts, and 
to cause all freemen to learn the craft of war and battle, 
and let the women and thralls and aliens see to other 
craftsmanship and to chaffer ; and even so is it done as 
he would ; and ye shall find us hardy of heart enough, 
though belike not so joyous as might be. Yet at 
least we shall not be easy to overcome. ** 

** So indeed it seemeth," said Ralph. '* Yet will I 
ask of you first one question, and then another/' 

" Ask on," said the burgher. 

Said Ralph : ^' How is it that ye, being so strong, 
should still sufiler them of the Dry Tree, uking a man 
here and a man there, when ye might destroy them 
utterly ? " 

The Burgher reddened and cleared his throat and 
said : " Sir, it must be made clear to you that these 
evil beasts are no peril to the Burg of the Four Friths ; 
all the harm they may do us, is as when a cur dog 
biteth a man in the calf of the leg ; whereby the man 
shall be grieved indeed, but the dog slain. Such grief 
as that they have done us at whiles : but the grief is 
paid for thus, that the hunting and slaying of them 
keeps our men in good trim, and pleasures them; 
shortly to say it, they are the chief deer wherewith our 
wood is stocked." 

He stopped awhile and then went on again and 
said : " To say sooth they be not very handy for crush- 
ing as a man crushes a wasp, because sorcery goes with 
them, and the wiles of one who is their Queen, the 
evilest woman who ever spat upon the blessed Host of 
the Altar : yet is she strong ; a devouring sea of souls, 
God help us ! " And he blessed himself therewith. 

Said Ralph : **Yet a word on these Wheat- wearers ; 

90 






it seemeth that ye never fail to overcome them in 
battle ? " 

" But seldom at least," quoth the Burgher. 

Said Ralph : " Then it were no great matter for 
you to gather a host overwhelming, and to take their 
towns and castles, and forbid them weapons, and make 
them your thralls to till the land for you which now 
they call theirs ; so that ye might have of their gettings 
all save what were needful for them to live as thralls." 
I deem it were an easy thing," said the burgher. 

Quoth Ralph : " Then why do ye not so ? " 
It were but a poor game to play," s^d the burgher. 

Such of their wealth as we have a mind to, we can 
have now at the cost of a battle or two, begun one 
hour and ended the next : were we their masters sitting 
down amidst of their hatred, and amidst of their plot- 
ting, yea, and in the very place where that were the 
hottest and thickest, the battle would be to begin at 
every sun's uprising, nor would it be ended at any 
sunset. Hah ! what sayest thou ? " 

Said Ralph : ** This seemeth to me but the bare 
truth ; yet it is little after the manner of such master- 
ful men as ye be. But why then do ye slay all their 
carles that are taken ; whereas ye bear away the women 
and make thralls of them at home, that is to say^ foes 
in every house ? " 

*' It may be," s^d the Burgher, " that this is not 
amongst the wisest of our deaUngs. Yet may we do 
no otherwise ; for thus we swore to do by all the great- 
est oaths that we might swear, in the days when wc 
first cast off their yoke, and yet were not over strong 
at the first ; and now it hath so grown into a part of 
our manners, yea, and of our very hearts and minds, 
that the- slaying of a Wheat-wearer is to us a lighter 
matter than the smiting of a rabbit or a fowmart. But 
now, look you, fa'w sir, my company ariseth fix)m 
table ; so I bid* thee a good night And I give thee a 

9^ 



good rede along with the good wish, to wit, that thou 
ask not too many questions in this city concerning its 
foemen : for here is the stranger looked upon with 
doubt, if he neither will take the wages of the Burg for 
battle, nor hath aught to sell." 

Ralph reddened at his word, and the other looked 
at him steadily as he spoke, so that Ralph deemed that 
he mistrusted him : hp deemed moreover that three or 
foiu- of the others looked hard at him as they went 
towards the door, while Roger stood somewhat smiling, 
and humming a snatch of an old song. 

But when the other guests had left the hostelry, 
Roger left his singing, and turned to Ralph and said : 
** Master, meseems that they mistrust us, and now 
maybe is that peril that I spake of nigher than I 
deemed when we came into the Burg this morning. 
And now I would that we were well out of the Burg 
and in the merry greenwood ag^n, and it repents me 
that I brought diee hither.'* 

" Nay, good fellow," quoth Ralph, " heed it not : 
besides, it was me, not thee, that they seemed to doubt 
of. I will depart hence to-morrow morning no worser 
than I came, and leave thee to seek thy fortune here ; 
and good luck go with thee." 

Roger looked hard at him and sud : ^' Not so, 
young lord ; if thou goest I will go with thee, for 
thou hast won my heart, I know not how ; and I would 
verily be thy servant, to follow thee whithersoever thou 
goest ; for I think that great deeds will come of thee." 

This word pleased Ralph, for he was young and 
lightly put faith in men's words, and loved to be well 
thought of, and was fain of good fellowship withal. 
So he said : '^ This is a good word of thine, and I 
thank thee for it ; and look to it that in my adven- 
tures^ and the reward of them thou shalt have thy due 
share. Lo here my hand on it ! " 

Roger took his hand, yet therewith his face seemed 

92 



a little troubled, but he said nought. Then spoke 
Ralph : ^' True it is that I am not fain to take the 
wages of the Burg ; for it seems to me that they be 
hand men, and cruel and joyless, and that their service 
shall be rather churlish than knightly. Howbeit, let 
night bring counsel, and we will see to this to-morrow ; 
for now I am both sleepy and weary." Therewith he 
called the chamberlain, who bore a wax light before 
him to his chamber, and he did off his raiment and 
cast himself on his bed, and fell asleep straightway, 
before he knew where Roger was sleeping, whether it 
were in the hall or some place else. 



CHAPTER XV. HOW RALPH DEPARTED 
FROM THE BURG OF THE FOUR 
FRITHS. 

HIMSEEMED he had scarce been asleep a 
minute ere he awoke with a sound of someone 
saying softly, " Master, master, awake ! " So 
he sat up and answered softly in his turn : " Who is it ? 
what is amiss, since the night is yet young ? " 

" I am thy fellow-farer, Roger," said the speaker, 
" and this thou hast to do, get on thy raiment speedily, 
and take thy weapons without noise, if thou wouldst 
not be in the prison of the Burg before sunrise." 

Ralph did as he was bidden without more words ; for 
already when he lay down his heart misgave him that he 
was in no safe place ; he looked to his weapons and ar- 
mour that they should not clash, and down they came 
into the hall and found the door on the latch ; so out 
they went and Ralph saw that it was somewhat cloudy ; 
the moon was set and it was dark, but Ralph knew 
by the scent that came in on the light wind, and a little 
stir of blended sounds, that it was hard on dawning; and 
even therewith he heard the challenge of the warders 
on the walls and their crying of the hour; and^the 

93 



\ 



chimes of the belfry rang clear and loud, and seeming 
close above him, two hours and a half after midnight. 
Roger spake not, and Ralph was man-at-arms enough 
to know that he must hold his peace ; and though he 
longed sore to have his horse Falcon with him, yet he 
wotted that it availed not to ask of his horse, since he 
durst not ask of his life. 

So they went on silently till they were out of the 
Great Place and came into a narrow street, and so 
into another which led them straight into the house- 
less space under the wall. Roger led right on as if 
he knew the way well, and in a twinkling were they 
come to a postern in the wall betwixt the East Gate 
and the South. By the said postern Ralph saw certain 
men standing ; and on the earth near by^ whereas he was 
keen-eyed, he saw more than one man lying moveless. 

Spake Roger softly to the men who stood on their 
feet : " Is the rope twined ? " " Nay, rope-twiner,** 
said one of them. Then Roger turned and whispered to 
Ralph : *' Friends. Get out thy sword ! '* Wherewithal 
the gate was opened^ and they all passed out through 
the wall, and stood above the ditch in the angle-nook 
of a square tower. Then Ralph saw some of the men 
stoop and shoot out a broad plank over the ditch, 
which was deep but not wide thereabout, and straight- 
way he followed the others over it, going last save 
Roger. By then they were on the other side he saw a 
glimmer of the dawn in the eastern heaven, but it 
was still more than dusk, and no man spoke again. 
They went on softly across the plain fields outside the 
wall, creeping from bush to bush, and from tree to 
tree, for here, if nowhere about the circuit of the 
Burg, were a few trees growing. Thus they came into 
a little wood and pass^ through it, and then Ralph 
could see that the men were six besides Roger ; by the 
glimmer of the growing dawn he saw before them a 
space of meadows with high hedges about them, and a 

94 



long dim line that he took for the roof of a barn or 
grange, and beyond that a dark mass of trees. 

Still they pressed on without speaking ; a dog barked 
not far off and the cocks were crowing, and close by 
them in the meadow a cow lowed and went hustling over 
the bents and the long, unbitten buttercups. Day 
grew apace, and by then they were under the barn- 
gable which he had seen aloof he saw the other roofs 
of the grange and heard the bleating of sheep. And 
now he saw those six men clearly^ and noted that one 
of them was very big and tall, and one small and 
slender, and it came into his mind that these two were 
none other than the twain whom he had come upon the 
last night sitting in the hall of the Flower de Luce. 

Even therewith came a man to the gate of the 
sheep-cote by the grange, and caught sight of them, 
and had the wits to run back at once shouting out : 
*' Hugh, Wat, Richard, and all ye, out with you, out a 
doors ! Here be men ! Ware the Dry Tree ! Bows 
and bills ! Bows and bills ! " 

With that those fellows of Ralph made no more 
ado, but set off running at their best toward the wood 
aforesaid, which crowned the slope. leading up from 
the grange, and now took no care to go softly, nor 
heeded the clashing of their armour. Ralph ran with 
the best and entered the wood alongside the slim youth 
aforesaid, who stayed not at the wood's edge but went 
on running still : but Ralph stayed and turned to see 
what was toward, and beheld how that tall man was 
the last of their company, and ere he entered the wood 
turned about with a bent bow in his hand, and even 
as he nocked the shaft, the men from the Grange, who 
were seven in all, came running out from behind the 
barn-gable, crying out : ^ Ho thieves ! ho ye of the Dry 
Tree, abide till we come ! flee not fix)m handy strokes." 
The tall man had the shaft to his ear in a twinkling, 
and loosed straightway, and nocked and loosed another 

95 



shaft without staying to note how the first had sped. 
But Ralph saw that a man was before each of the 
shafts^ and had fallen to earthy though he had no time 
to see aught else, for even therewith the tall man caught 
him by the hand, and crying out, " The third time ! " 
ran on with him after the rest of their company; 
and whereas he was long-legged and Ralph light- 
footed, they speedily came up with them, who were 
running still, but laughing as they ran, and jeering at 
the men of die Burgh ; and the tall man shouted out 
to them : '' Yea, lads, the counterfeit Dry Tree that 
they have raised in the Burg shall be dry enough this 
time." ** Truly," said another, " till we come to 
water it with the blood of these wretches." 

*' Well, well, get on," said a third, " waste not your 
wind in talk ; those carles will make but a short run 
of it to the walls, long as it was for us, creeping and 
creeping as we behoved to." 

The long man laughed ; " Thou sayest sooth,** 
said hcj ^' but thou art the longest winded of all in 
talking : get on, lads." 

They laughed again at his word and sped on with 
less noise ; while Ralph thought within himself that 
he was come into strange company, for now he knew 
well that the big man was even he whom he had first 
met at the churchyard gate of the thorp under Bear 
Hill. Yet he deemed that there was nought for it 
now but to go on. 

Within a while they all slacked somewhat, and 
presently did but walk, though swiftly, through the 
paths of the thicket, which Ralph deemed full surely 
was part of that side of the Wood Perilous that 
lay south of the Burg of the Four Friths. And now 
Roger joined himself to him, and spake to him aloud 
and said : *' So, fair master, thou art out of the peril 
of death for this bout." 

" Art thou all so sure of that ?" quoth Ralph, " or 

96 



who are these that be with us ? meseems they smell 
ofthe Dry Tree.*' 

**Yea, or rebels and runaways therefrom,"' said 
Roger, with a dry grin. ** But whosoever they may 
be, thou shalt see that they will sufier us to depart 
whither we will, if we like not their company. I will 
be thy warrant thereof." 

'* Moreover," said Ralph, " I have lost Falcon my 
horse ; it is a sore miss of him." 

** Maybe," quoth Roger, " but at least thou hast 
saved thy skin ; and whereas there are many horses on 
the earth, there is but one skin of thine : be content ; 
if thou wilt, thou shall win somewhat in exchange for 
thine horse." 

Ralph smiled, but somewhat sourly, and even there- 
with he heard a shrill whistle a little aloof, and the men 
stayed and held their peace, for they were talking 
together freely again now. Then the big man put 
his fingers to his mouth and whistled agsun in answer, 
a third whistle answered him ; and lo, presently, as 
their company hastened on, the voices of men, and 
anon they came into a little wood-lawn wherein stand- 
ing about or lying on the grass beside their horses were 
more than a score of men well armed, but without any 
banner or token, and all in white armour with white 
gaberdines thereover; and they had with them, as 
Ralph judged, some dozen of horses more than tiiey 
needed for their own riding. 

Great was the joy at this meeting, and there was 
embracing and kissing of friends : but Ralph noted 
that no man embraced that slender youth, and that he 
hdd him somewhat aloof from the others, and all 
seemed to do him reverence. 

Now spake one of the runaways: " Well, lads, here 
be aU we four weU met again along with those twain who 
came to help us at our pinch, as their wont is, and 
Roger withal, good at need again, and a friend of his, 

97 n 



as it seemeth, and whom we know not. See ye to 
that." 

Then stood forth the big man and said : '^ He is a 
f^r young knight^ as ye may see ; and he rideth seek- 
ing adventures, and Roger did us to wit that he was 
abiding in the Burg at his peril, and would have him 
away, even if it were somewhat against his will : and 
we were willing that it should be so, all the more as 
I have a guess concerning what he is; and a fore- 
seeing man might think that luck should go with him." 
Therewith he turned to Ralph and said: " How say 

ire, fair sir, will ye take guesting with us a while and 
earn our ways ? " 

Said Ralph : " Certain I am that whither ye will 
have me go, thither must I ; yet I deem that I have 
an errand that lies not your way. Therefore if I go 
with you, ye must so look upon it that I am in your 
fellowship as one compelled. To be short with you, I 
crave leave to depart and go mine own road." 

As he spoke he saw the youth walking up and down 
in short turns ; but his face he could scarce see at all, 
what for his slouched hat, what for his cloak ; and at 
last he saw him go up to the tall man and speak softly 
to him awhile. The tall man nodded his head, and 
as the youth drew right back nigh to the thicket, spake 
to Ralph again. 

« Fair sir, wegrant thine asking ; and add this thereto 
that we give thee the man who has joined himself to 
thee, Roger of the Rope-walk to wit, to help thee on 
the road, so that thou mayst not turn thy face back 
to the Burg of the Four Friths, where thine errand, 
and thy life withal, were soon sped now, or run into 
any other trap which the Wood Perilous may have 
for thee. And yet if thou think better of it, thou 
mayst come with us straightway ; for we have nought 
to do to tarry here any longer. And in any case, here 
is a good horse that we will give thee, since thou hast 

98 



lost thy steed ; and Roger who rideth with thee, he 
also is well horsed." 

Ralph looked hard at the big man, who now had 
his salade thrown back from his face, to see if he gave 
any token of jeering or malice, but could see nought 
such : nay, his face was grave and serious, not lU- 
fashioned, though it were both long and broad like his 
body : his cheek-bones somewhat high, his eyes grey 
and middling great, and looking, as it were, far away. 

Now deems Ralph that as for a trap of the Wood 
Perilous, he had already fallen into the trap ; for he 
scarce needed to be told that these were men of the 
Dry Tree. He knew also that it was Roger who had 
led him into this trap, although he deemed it done with 
no malice against him. So he said to himself that if 
he went with Roger he but went a roundabout road 
to the Dry Tree ; so that he was well nigh choosing 
to go on with their company. Yet again he thought that 
something might well befall which would free him from 
that fellowship if he went with Roger alone ; whereas 
if he went with the others it was not that he might be, 
byt that he was already of the fellowship of the Dry 
Tree, and most like would go straight thence to their 
stronghold. So he spake as soberly as the tall man 
had done. 

" S'mce ye give me the choice, fair sir, I will de- 
part hence with Roger alone, whom ye call my man, 
though to me he seemeth to be yours. Howbeit, he 
has led me to you once, and belike will do so once 



more." 



i€ 



Yea," quoth the big man smiUng no whit more 
than erst, " and that will make the fourth time. De- 
part then, fair sir, and take this word with thee that I 
wish thee good and not evil." 



99 



CHAPTER XVI. RALPH RIDETH THE 
WOOD PERILOUS AGAIN. 

NOW Roger led up to Ralph a strong horse» red 
roan of hue, duly harnessed for war, and he him- 
self had a good grey horse, and they mounted 
at once, and Ralph rode slowly away through the 
wood at his horse's will, for he was pondering all that 
had befallen him, and wondering what next should 
hap. Meanwhile those others had not loitered^ but 
were a-horseback at once, and went their ways from 
Ralph through the wildwood. 

Nought spake Ralph for a while till Roger came 
close up to him and said : '^ Whither shall we betake 
us, fair lord ? hast thou an inkling of the road whereon 
lies thine errand ?" 

Now to Ralph this seemed but mockery, and he 
answered sharply : ^^ I wot not, thou wilt lead whither 
thou wilt, even as thou hast trained me hitherward 
with lies and a forged tale. I suppose thou wilt lead 
me now by some roundabout road to the stronghold 
of the Dry Tree. It matters little, since thou durst 
not lead me back into the Burg. Yet now I come 
to think of it, it is evil to be alone with a found out 
traitor and liar ; and I had belike have done better to 
go with their company." 

" Nay nay," quoth Roger, ** thou art angry, and I 
marvel not thereat ; but let thy wrath run off thee if 
thou mayest ; for indeed what I have told thee of my- 
self and my griefs is not all mere lying. Neither was 
it any lie that thou wert in peril of thy life amongst 
those tyrants of the Burg ; thou with thy manly bear- 
ing, and free tongue, and bred, as I judge, to hate cruel 
deeds and injustice. Such freedom they cannot away 
with in that fellowship of hard men-at-arms; and 
soon hadst thou come to harm amongst them. And 
further, let alone that it is not ill to be sundered from 

ICX) 



yonder company, who mayhap will have rough work to 
do or ever they win home, I have nought to do to bring 
thee to Hampton under Scaur if thou hast no will to 
go thither: though certes I would lead thee some 
whither, whereof thou shalt ask me nought as now ; 
yet will I say thereof this much, that there thou shalt 
be both safe and well at ease. Now lastly know this, 
that whatever I have done, I have done it to do thee 
good and not ill ; and there is also another one, whom 
I will not name to thee, who wisheth thee better yet, 
by the token of those two strokes stricken by thee in 
the Wood Perilous before yesterday was a day." 

Now when Ralph heard those last words, such 
strong and sweet hope and desire stirred in him to 
see tibat woman of the Want-ways of the Wood 
Perilous that he forgat all else, except that he must 
nowise fall to strife with Roger, lest they should 
simder, and he should lose the help of him, which he 
now deemed would bring him to sight of her whom he 
had unwittingly come to long for more than aught 
else; so he spake to Roger quietly and humbly: 
*' Well, faring-fellow, thou seest how I am little more 
than a lad, and have fallen into matters mighty and 
perilous^ which I may not deal with of my own 
strength, at least until I get nigher to them so that 
I may look them in the eyes, and strike a stroke or 
two on them if they be at enmity with me. So I bid 
thee lead me whither thou wilt, and if thou be a 
traitor to me, on thine own head be it ; in good sooth, 
since I know nought of this wood and since I might 
go astray and so come back to the Burg where be 
those whom thou hast now made my foemen, I am 
content to take thee on thy wotd, and to hope the 
best of thee, and ask no question of thee, save whither- 
ward." 

*' Fair sir," said Roger, " away from this place at 
least ; for we are as yet over nigh to the Burg to be 

lOI 



safe : but as to elsewhither we may wend, thereof we 
may speak on the road as we have leisure/' 

Therewith he smote his horse with his heel and 
they went forward at a smart trot, for the horses were 
unwearied, and the wood thereabouts of beech and 
clear of underwood ; and Roger seemed to know his 
way well, and made no fumbling over it. 

Four hours or more gone, the wood thinned and 
the beeches failed, and they came to a country, still 
waste, of little low hills, stony for the more part, 
beset with scraggy thorn-bushes, and here and there 
some other berry-tree sown by the birds. Then said 
Roger : " Now I deem us well out of the peril of them 
of the Burg, who if they follow the chase as far as the 
sundering of us and the others, will heed our slot 
nothing, but will follow on that of the company : so we 
may breathe our horses a little, though their bait will 
be but small in this rough waste : therein we are better 
off than they, for lo you, saddle bags on my nag and 
meat and drink therein.'' 

So they lighted down and let their horses graze 
what they could, while they ate and drank ; amidst 
which RaJph again asked Roger of whither they were 
going. Said Roger : " I shall lead thee to a good har- 
bour, and a noble house of a master of mine, wherein 
thou mayst dwell certain days, if thou hast a mind 
thereto, not without solace maybe." 

*' And this master," sdd Ralph, " is he of the Dry 
Tree ? " Said Roger : ** I scarce know how to answer 
thee without lying : but this I say, that whether he be 
or not, this is true ; amongst those men I have friends 
and amongst them foes ; but fate bindeth me to them 
for a while." Said Ralph reddening : ** Be there any 
women amongst them?" ^'Yea, yea," quoth Roger, 
smiling a little, " doubt not thereof." 

'' And that Lady of the Dry Tree," quoth Ralph, 
reddening yet more, but holding up his head, '' that 

1 02 



woman whereof the Burgher spoke so bitterly,threaten- 
ing her with torments and death if they might but lay 
hold of her ; what wilt thou tell me concerning her ? '* 
** But little," said Roger, " save this, that thou desirest 
to see her, and that thou mayest have thy will thereon 
if thou wilt be guided by me." 

Ralph hearkened as if he heeded little what Roger 
said ; out presently he rose up and walked to and fro 
in short turns with knit brows as one pondering a hard 
matter. He spake nought, and Roger seemed to 
heed him nothing, though in sooth he looked at him 
askance from time to time, till at last he came and lay 
down again by Roger, and in a while he spake : '^I wot 
not why ye of the Dry Tree want me, or what ye will 
do with me ; and but for one thing I would even now 
ride away from thee at all adventure." 

Roger said: ^^ AU this ye shall learn later on, and 
shalt find it but a simple matter ; and meanwhile I 
tell thee again that all is for thy gain and thy pleasure. 
So now ride away if thou wilt ; who hindereth thee ? 
certes not I." 

" Nay," said Ralph, " I will ride with thee first to 
that fair house ; and afterwards we shall see what is 
to hap." " Yea," quoth Roger, " then let us to horse 
straightway, so that we may be there if not before 
dark night yet at least before bright mom ; for it is 
yet far away." 

CHAPTER XVIL RALPH COMETH TO 
THE HOUSE OF ABUNDANCE. 

THEREWITHAL they gat to horse and rode 
away through that stony land, wherein was no 
river, but for water many pools in the bottoms, 
with little brooks running from them. But after a 
while they came upon a ndge somewhat high, on the 
further side whereof was a wide valley well-grassed 

103 



and with few trees^ and no habitation of man that they 
might see. But a wide river ran down the midst of it ; 
and it was now four hours after noon. Quoth Roger : 
'^The day wears and we shall by no means reach 
harbour before dark night, even if we do our best : 
art thou well used to the water, lord ? " ^^ Much as a 
mallard is^" said Ralph. Said Roger : ^ That is well, 
for though there is a ford some mile and a half down 
stream, for that same reason it is the way whereby 
men mostly cross the water into the wildwood ; and 
here again we are more like to meet foes than well- 
Mrishers ; or at the least there will be question of who 
we are, and whence and whither; and we may 
stumble in our answers. " Said Ralph : ^^ There is no 
need to tarry, ride we down to the water." 

So did they, and took the water, which was deep, 
but not swift. On the further side they clomb up a 
hill somewhat steep ; at the crown they drew rein to 
give their horses oreath, and Ralph turned in his 
saddle and looked down on to the valley, and as afore- 
s^d he was clear-sighted and far-sighted ; now he said : 
" Fellow-farer, I see the riding of folk down below 
there, and meseems they be spurring toward the 
water ; and they have weapons : there ! dost thou 
not see the gleam ? " 

* I will take thy word for it, f^ sir," ssud Roger, 
*' and will even spur, since they be the first men whom 
we have seen since we left the thickets." And there- 
with he went off at a hand gallop, and Ralph followed 
him without more ado. 

They rode up hill and down dale of a grassy 
downland, till at last they saw a wood before them 
again^ and soon drew rein under the boughs; for 
now were their horses somewhat wearied. Then ^id 
Ralph : *' Here have we ridden a fair land, and seen 
neither house nor herd, neither sheep-cote nor shepherd. 
I wonder thereat" 

104 



\ 



Said Rc^er: ** Thou wouldst wonder the less didst 
thou know the story of it." *' What story ? " said 
Ralph. Quoth Roger : ** A story of war and wasting.*' 
** Yea ? " said Ralph, " yet surely some bold knight or 
baron hath rights in the land, and might be free to build 
him a strong house and gather men to him to guard the 
shepherds and husbandmen from burners and lifters." 
"Sooth is that," said Roger; "but there are. other 
things in the tale." " What things ? " said Ralph. 
Quoth Roger : ^^ 111 hap and sorrow and the Hand 
of Fate and great Sorcery." " And dastards withal ? " 
said Ralph. ** Even so," said Roger, " yet mingled with 
valiant men. Over long is the tale to tell as now, so 
low as the sun is ; so now ride we on with little fear 
of foemen. For look you, this wood, like the thickets 
about the Burg of the Four Friths, hath an evil name^ 
and few folk ride it imcompelled ; therefore it is the 
safer for us. And yet I will say this to thee, that 
whereas awhile agone thou mightest have departed 
from me with little peril of aught save the stumbling 
on , some of the riders of the Burg of the Four Friths, 
departing from me now will be a hard matter to thee ; 
fcH* the ssunts in Heaven only know wMtherward thou 
shpuldest come, if thou wert to guide thyself now. 
TUis a rough word, but a true one, so help me God 
an4 Saint Michael ! What sayest thou ; art thou con- 
tent, or wilt thou cast hard words at me again ? " 

So it was that for all that had come and gone 
Ralph was light-hearted and happy; so he laughed 
and said : ** Content were I, even if I were not com- 
pelled thereto. For my heart tells me of new things, 
and marvellous and joyous that I shall see ere Ions." 

" And thine heart licth not," said Roger, "for amidst 
of this wood is the house where we shall have guesting 
to-night, which will be to thee, belike, the door of lire 
and many marvels. For thence have folk sought ere 
now to the WELL AT THE WORLD'S END." 

105 



Ralph turned to him sharply and said : ^ Many 
times in these few days have I heard that word. 
Dost thou know the meaning thereof? For as to 
me I know it not" Said Roger: "Thou mayst 
well be as wise as I am thereon : belike men seek to 
it for their much thriving, and oftenest find it not. 
Yet have I heard that they be the likeliest with whom 
all women are in love." 

Ralph held his peace, but Roger noted that he 
reddened at the word. 

Now they got on horseback again, for they had 
lighted down to breath their beasts, and they rode on 
and on, and never was Roger at fault: long was 
the way and perforce they rested at whiles, so that 
night fell upon them in the wood, but the moon rose 
withal. So night being fairly come, they rested a good 
while, as it would be dawn before moonset. Then 
they rode on again, till now the summer night grew 
old and waned, but the wood hid the b^nnings of 
dawn. 

At last they came out of the close wood suddenly 
into an open plain, and now, as the twilight of the daWn 
was passing into early day, they saw that wide grassy 
meadows and tilled fields lay before them, with a little 
river running through the plain ; and amidst the mea- 
dows, on a green mound, was a white castle, strong, and 
well built, though not of the biggest. 

Roger pointed to it, and said, " Now we arc come 
home," and cried on his wearied beast, who for his part 
seemed to see the end of his journey. They splashed 
through a ford of the river and came to the gate of the 
castle as day drew on apace ; Roger blew a blast on a 
great horn that hung on the gate, and Ralph looking 
round deemed he had never seen fairer building than 
in the castle, what he could see of it, and yet it was 
built from of old. They waited no long while before 
they were answered ; but whereas Ralph looked to see 

1 06 



armed gatewards peer from the battlements or the shot 
window, and a porter espying them through a lattice, 
it happened in no such way, but without more ado the 
wicket was opened to them by a tall old woman, 
gaunt and grey, who greeted them courteously : 
Roger lighted down and Ralph did in likewise, and 
they led their horses through the gate into the court 
of the castle ; the old woman going before them till 
they came to the hall door, which she opened to them, 
and taking the reins of their horses led them away to 
the stable, while those twain entered the hall, which 
was as goodly as might be. Roger led Ralph up to a 
board on the dais, whereon there was meat and drink 
enow, and Ralph made his way-leader sit down by him, 
and they fell to. There was no serving-man to wait 
on them nor a carle of any kind did they see ; the old 
woman only, coming back from the horses, served 
them at table. Ever as she went about she looked long 
on Ralph, and seemed as if she would have spoken to 
him, but as often, she glanced at Roger and forbore. 

So when they were well nigh done with their meat 
Ralph spake to the carline and said : ^'Belike the lord or 
the lady of this house are abed and we shall not see 
them till the morrow ? " 

Ere the carline could speak Roger broke in and 
said : ^' There is neither lord nor lady in the castle as 
now, nor belike will there be to-morrow morning, or 
rather, before noon on this day ; so now ye were better 
to let this dame lead thee to bed, and let the next hours 
take care of themselves." 

**So be it," said Ralph, who was by this time 
heartily wearied, " shall we two lie in the same cham- 
ber?" 

** Nay," said the carline shortly, ** lodging for the 
master and lodging for the man are two different 
things." 

Roger laughed and said nought, and Ralph gave 

107 



him good night, and followed the carline nothing loth, 
who led him to a fair chamber over the solar, as if he 
had been the very master of the castle, and he lay down 
in a very goodly bed, nor troubled himself as to where 
Ro^ lay, nor indeed of aught else, nor did he dream 
of Burg, or wood, or castle, or man, or woman ; but 
lay still like the image of his father s &ther on the 
painted tomb in the choir of St. Laurence of Upmeads. 



CHAPTER XVIIL OF RALPH IN THE 
CASTLE OF ABUNDANCE. 

BROAD lay the sun upon the plain amidst the 
wildwood when he awoke and sprang out of 
bed and looked out of the window (for the 
chamber was in the gable of the hall and there was 
nought of the castle beyond it). It was but little 
after noon of a fair June day, for Ralph had slumbered 
as it behoved a young man. The light wind bore 
into the chamber the sweet scents of the early summer, 
the chief of all of them being the savour of the new- 
cut grass, for about the wide meadows the carles and 
queens were awork at the beginning of hay harvest ; 
and late as it was in the day, more than one blackbird 
was singing from the bushes of the castle pleasance. 
Ralph sighed for very pleasure of life before he had 
yet well remembered where he was or what had bel^en 
of late ; but as he stood at the window and gazed over 
the meadows, and the memory of all came back to him, 
he sighed once more for a lack of somewhat that came 
into his heart, and he smiled shamefacedly, though 
there was no one near, as his thought bade him won- 
der if amongst the haymaking women yonder there 
were any as fair as those yellow-clad thrall-women of 
the Burg ; and as he turned from the ¥dndow a new 
hope made his heart beat, for he deemed that he had 
been brought to that house that he might meet some 

io8 



one who should change his life and make him a new 
man. 

So he did on his nument and went his ways down 
to the hall, and looked about for Roger, but found him 
not, nor any one else save the carline, who presently 
came in from the buttery, and of whom he asked, where 
was Roger. Quoth she : ^'He has been gone these six 
hours, but hath left a word for thee, lord, to wit, that he 
beseeches thee to abide him here for two days at the 
least, and thereafter thou art free to go if thou wilt. 
But as for me " (and therewith she smiled on him as 
sweetly as her wrinkled old face might compass) ^^ I say 
to thee, abide beyond those two days if Roger cometh 
not, and as long as thou art here I will msJue thee all 
the cheer I may. And who knoweth but thou mayest 
meet worthy adventures here. Such have ere now 
befallen good knights in this house or anigh it.'' 

^ I thank thee, mother," quoth Ralph, ^^ and it is 
like that I maj abide here beyond the two days if the 
adventure befall me not ere then. But at least I will 
bide the eating of my dinner here to-day." 

** Well is thee, fair lord," said the carline. ** If thou 
wilt but walk in the meadow but a little half hour all 
shall be ready for thee. Forsooth it had been dight 
before now, but that I waited thy coming forth from 
thy chamber, for I would not wake thee. And the 
saints be praised for the long sweet sleep that hath 
painted thy goodly cheeks." So saying she hurried off 
to the buttery, leaving Ralph laughing at her out- 
spoken flattering words. 

Then he got him out of the hall and the castle, for 
no door was shut, and there was no man to be seen 
within or about the house. So he walked to and fro the 
meadow and saw the neat-herds in the pasture, and 
the hay-making folk beyond them, and the sound of 
their voices came to him on the little airs that were 
breathing. He thought he would talk to some of these 

109 



folk ere the world was much older^ and also he noted be- 
tween the river and the wood many cots of the hus- 
bandmen trimly builded and thatched, and amidst 
them a little church, white and delicate of fashion ; but 
as now his face was set toward the river because of 
the hot day. He came to a pool a little below where 
a wooden foot-bridge crossed the water, and about the 
pool were willows growing, which had not been 
shrouded these eight years, and the water was clear as 
glass with a bottom of fine sand. There then he bathed 
him, and as he sported in the water he bethought him 
of the long smooth reaches of Upmeads Water, and 
the swimming low down amidst the long swinging 
weeds between the chuckle of the reed sparrows, when 
the sun was new risen in the July morning. When 
he stood on the grass again, what with the bright 
weather and fair little land, what with the freshness of 
the water, and his good rest, and the hope of adventure 
to come, he felt as if he had never been merrier in his 
life-days. Withal it was a weight off his heart that 
he had escaped from the turmoil of the wars of the 
Burg of the Four Friths, and the men of the Dry 
Tree, and the Wheat- wearers, with the thralldom and 
stripes and fire-raising, and the hard life of strife and 
gain of the walled town and strong place. 

When he came back to the castle gate there was 
the carline in the wicket peering out to right and 
left, seeking him to bring him in to dinner. And 
when she saw him so joyous, with his lips smiling and 
his eyes dancing for mirth, she also became joyous, 
and said : " Venly, it is a pity of thee that there is 
never a fair damsel or so to look on thee and love 
thee here to-day. Far would many a maiden run to 
kiss thy mouth, fair lad. But now come to thy meat, 
that thou mayest grow the fairer and last the longer." 

He laughed gaily and went into the hall with her, 
and now was it well dight with bankers and dorsars 

no 



of goodly figured cloth, and on the walls a goodly 
hailing of arras of the Story, of Alexander. So he 
sat to table, and the meat and drink was of the best, 
and the carline served him, praising him ever with 
fulsome words as he ate, till he wished her away. 

After dinner he rested awhile, and called to the 
carline and bade her bring him his sword and his basnet. 
" Wherefore ? " said she. " Whither wilt thou ? " 

Said he, ^' I would walk abroad to drink the air." 

" Wilt thou into the wildwood ? " said she. 

"Nay, mother," he said, "I will but walk about 
the meadow and look on the hay-making folk." 

" For that," said the carline, " thou needest neither 
sword nor helm. I was afeard that thou wert about 
departing, and thy departure would be a grief to my 
heart : in the deep wood thou mightest be so bestead 
as to need a sword in thy fist ; but what shouldst thou 
do with it in this Plain of Abundance, where are nought 
but peaceful husbandmen and frank and kind maidens? 
and all these are as if they had drunk a draught of the 
WELL AT THE WORLD'S END." 

Ralph started as she said the word, but held his 
peace awhile. Then he said : " And who is lord of 
this fair land ? " " There is no lord, but a lady," said 
the carline. '^ How hight she ? " said Ralph. ** We 
call her the Lady of Abundance," said the old woman. 
Said Ralph : ^^ Is she a good lady ? " " She is my 
lady," said the carline, " and doeth good to me, and 
there is not a carle in the land but speaketh well of 
her — it may be over well." ** Is she fair to look 
on ? " said Ralph. ^ Of women-folk there is none 
fairer," said the carline ; ^ as to men, that is another 
thing." 

Ralph was silent awhile, then he said : '^ What is 
the Well at the World's End ? " 

** They talk of it here," said she, " many things too 
long to tell of now : but there is a book in this house 

m 



that telleth of it ; I know it well by the look of it 
though I may not read in it. I will seek it fw thee 
to-morrow it thou wilt" 

^^ Have thou thanks, dame/' said he ; ^ and I pray 
thee forget it not; but now I will go forth." 

" Yea," said the carline, '* but abide a little." 

Therewith she went into the buttery, and came back 
bearing with her a garland of roses of the garden, in- 
termingled with green leaves, and she said : ^^ The sun 
is yet hot and over hot, do this on thine head to shade 
thee from the burning. I knew that thou wouldst go 
abroad to-day, so I niade this for thee in the morning; 
and when I was young I was called the garland-maker. 
It is better summer wear than thy basnet." 

He thanked her and did it on smiling, but some- 
what ruefully ; for he said to himself : ^ This is over 
old a dame that I should wear a love-token from her." 
But when it was on his head, the old dame clapped her 
hands and cried : '^ O there, there ! Now art thou like 
the image of St. Michael in the Choir of Our Lady of 
the Thorn : there is none so lovely as thou. I would 
my Lady could see thee thus ; surely the sight of thee 
should gladden her heart. And withal thou art not 
ill clad otherwise." 

Indeed his raiment was goodly, for his surcoat was 
new, and it was of fine green cloth, and the coat-ar- 
mour of Upmead was beaten on it, to wit, on a gold 
ground an apple-tree fruited, standing by a river-side. 

Now he laughed somewhat uneasily at her words, 
and so went forth fi-om the castle again, and made 
straight for the hay-making folk on the other side 
of the water; for all this side was being fed by 
beasts and sheep ; but at the point where he crossed, 
the winding of the stream brought it near to the castle 
gate. So he came up with the country folk and 
greeted them, and they did as much by him in cour- 
teous words : they were goodly and well-shapen, both 



men and women, gay and joyous of demeanour and 
well dad as for folk who work afield. So Ralph went 
from one to another and gave them a word or two, 
and was well pleased to watch them at their work 
awhile ; but yet he would fain speak somewhat more 
with one or other of them. At last under the shade 
of a tall elm-tree he saw an old man sitting heeding 
the outer raiment of the haymakers and their victual 
and bottles of drink ; and he came up to him and gave 
him the sele of the day ; and the old man blessed him 
and said : ^' Art thou dwelling in my lady's castle^ f^r 
lord ? " " A while at least/' said Ralph. Said the 
old man : ^^ We thank thee for coming to see us ; and 
meseemeth from the look of thee thou art worthy to 
dwell in my Lady's House." 

** What sayest thou ? " said Ralph. ** Is she a good 
lady and a gracious ? " '^ O yea, yea/' said the carle. 
Ssud Ralph : '^ Thou meanest, I suppose, that she is 
fair to look on, and soft-spoken when she is pleased ? " 

^* I mean far more than that^" said the carle ; 
** surely is she most heavenly fair, and her voice is 
like the music of heaven : but withal her deeds, and 
the kindness of her to us poor men and husbandmen, 
are no worse than should flow forth from that loveli- 



ness." 



<c 



Will ye be her servants ? " said Ralph, ** or what 
are ye ? " Said the carle : " We be yeomen and her 
vavassors ; there is no thralldom in our land." ^ Do 
ye live in good peace for the more part i " said Ralph. 
Said the carle : '^ Time has been when cruel battles 
were fought in these wood-lawns, and many poor people 
were destroyed therein : but that was before the coming 
of the Lady of Abundance." 

" And when was that ? " said Ralph. " I wot not," 
said the old carle ; ^' I was bom in peace and suckl^ 
in peace ; and in peace I fell to the loving of maidens, 
and I wedded in peace, and begat children in peace, 

113 I 



and in peace they dwell about me, and in peace shall 
I depart." 

** What then," said Ralph (and a grievous fear was 
bom in his heart) , ^ is not the Lady of Abundance 
young ? " Said the carle : ** I have seen her when I 
was young and also since I have been old, and ever 
was she fair and lovely, and slender handed, as straight 
as a spear, and as sweet as white clover, and gentle- 
voiced and kindy and dear to our souls." 

" Yea," said Ralph, " and she doth not dwell in this 
castle always ; where else then doth she dwell ? " ^^ I 
wot not," ssud the carle, ^ but it should be in heaven : 
for when she cometh to us all our joys increase in us 
by the half" 

** Look you, father," said Ralph, " May it not have 
been more than one Lady of Abundance that thou 
hast seen in thy life-days ; and that this one that now 
is, is the daughter's daughter of the one whom thou 
first sawest — how sayest thou ? " The carle laughed : 
" Nay, nay," said he, " It is not so : never has there 
been another like to her in all ways, in body and voice, 
and heart and soul. It is as I say, she is the same as 
she was always." *^ And when," said Ralph, with a 
beating heart, ^' does she come hither ? Is it at some 
set season ? " " Nay, from time to time, at all sea- 
sonSy" said the carle ; ^^ and as fair she is when she 
goeth over the snow, as when her feet are set amidst 
the June daisies." 

Now was Ralph so full of wonder that he scarce 
knew what to say ; but he bethought him of that 
fair waste on the other side of the forest, the country 
through which that wide river flowed, so he said : 
" And that land north-away beyond the wildwood, 
canst thou tell me the tale of its wars, and if it were 
wasted in the same wars that tormented this land ?" 
The carle shook his head : " As to the land beyond 
this wood," quoth he, '* I know nought of it, for 

M4 



beyond the wood go we never : nay, most often we 
go but a little way into it, no further than we can see 
the glimmer of the open daylight through its trees, — 
the daylight of the land of Abundance — that is enough 
for us.'* 

** Well," said Ralph, " I thank thee for the tale thou 
hast told me, and wish thee more years of peace/' 

" And to diee, young man," said the carle, " I wish 
a good wish indeed, to wit that thou mayest see the 
Lady of Abundance here before thou departest." 

His words once more made Ralph's heart beat and 
his cheek flush, and he went back to the castle some- 
what speedily ; for he said to himself, after the folly 
of lovers, ** Maybe she will be come even now, and I 
not there to meet her." Yet when he came to the 
castle-gate his heart misgave him, and he would not 
enter at once, but turned about to go round the wall 
by the north and west. In the castle he saw no soul 
save the old dame looking out of the window and 
nodding to him, but in the pasture all about were 
neatherds and shepherds, both men and women ; and 
at the north-west comer, whereas the river drew 
quite close to the wall, he came upon two damsels of 
the field-folk fishing with an angle in a quiet pool of 
the stream. He greeted them, and they, who were 
yoimg and goodly, returned his greeting, but were 
shamefaced at his gallant presence, as indeed was he 
at the thoughts of his heart mingled with the sight of 
their fairness. So he passed on at first without more 
words than his greeting. Yet presently he turned 
back again, for he longed to hear some word more 
concerning the Lady whose coming he abode. They 
stood smiling and blushing as he came up to them 
again, and heeded their angles little. 

Said Ralph : '^ Fair maidens, do ye know at all 
when the Lady of the castle may be looked for? " 
They were slpw to answer, but at last one said: 

"5 



^ Noj fiur sir^ such as we know nothing of the 
comings and goings of great folk." 

Said Ralph, smiling on her for kindness, and plea- 
sure of her fairness: '^Is it not so that ye wul be 
glad of her coming ? " 

But she answered never a word, only looked at 
him steadily, with her great grey eyes fixed in won- 
derment while the other one looked down as if intent 
on her angling tools. 

Ralph knew not how to ask another question, so 
he turned about with a greeting word again, and this 
time went on steadily round about the wall 

And now in his heart waxed the desire of that 
Liody, once seen, as he deemed, in such strange 
wise; but he wondered within himself if the devil 
had not sown that longing within him : whereas it 
might be that this woman on whom he had set his 
heart was herself no real woman but a devil, and qne 
of the goddesses of the ancient world, and his heart 
was sore and troubled by many doubts and hopes and 
fears ; but he ssdd to himself that when he saw her 
then could he judge between the good and the evil, 
and could do or forbear, and that the sight of her 
would cure all. 

Thus thinking he walked swiftly, and was soon 
round at the castle gate again, and entered, and 
went into the hall, where was the old dame, busied 
about some household matter. Ralph nodded to her 
and hastened away, lest she should fall to talk with 
him ; and he set himself now to go from chamber to 
chamber, that he might learn the castle, what it was. 
He came into the guard-chamber and found the walls 
thereof all hung with armour and weapons, clean and 
in good order, though there was never a man-at-arms 
there, nor any soul except the old woman. He went 
up a stair therefrom on to the battlements, and went 
into the towers of the wall, and found weapons both 

ii6 



for hand, and for cast and shot in each one of them^ 
and all ready as if for present battle ; then he came 
down into the court again and went into a very goodly 
ambulatory over against the hall, and he entered a 
door therefrom, which was but on the latch, and went 
up a little stair into a chamber, which was the good- 
liest and the richest of all. Its roof was all done with 
gold and blue from over sea, and its pavement wrought 
delicately in Alexandrine work. On the dais was a 
throne of carven ivory, and above it a canopy of 
baudekin of the goodliest fashion, and there was a 
foot-carpet before it, wrought with beasts and the 
hunting of the deer. As for the walls of that chamber^ 
they were hung with a marvellous hailing of arras, 
wherein was wrought the greenwood, and there amidst 
in one place a pot-herb garden, and a green garth with 
goats therein, and in that garth a little thatched house. 
And amidst all this greenery were figured over and over 
again two women, whereof one old and the other 
young ; and the old one was clad in grand attire, with 
gold chains and brooches and rings, and sat with her 
hands before her by the house door, or stood looking 
on as the young one worked, spinning or digging in the 
garth, or milking the goats outside of it, or what not ; 
and this one was clad in sorry and scanty raiment. 

What all this might mean Ralph knew not; but 
when he had looked long at the greenery and its 
images, he said to himself that if he who wrought 
that cloth had not done the young woman after the 
likeness of the Lady whom he had helped in the wild- 
wood^ then it must have been done from her twin 
sister. 

Long he abode in that chamber looking at the 
arras, and wondering whether the sitter in the 
ivory throne would be any other than the thrall in 
the greenwood cot. He abode there so long that the 
dusk began to gather in the house, and he could see 

117 



the images no more ; for he was filled with the sweet- 
ness of desire when he looked on them. 

Then he went back slowly to the hall^ and found 
the carline^ who had lighted the waxlights and made 
meat ready for him ; and when she saw him she cried 
out joyously : " Ah, I knew that thou wouldst come 
back. Art thou well content with our little land ? " 

** I like it well, dame," ssud he ; " but tell me, if 
thou canst, what is the meaning of the hailing in the 
chamber with the ivory throne ? " 

Said the carline : '^ Thereof shall another tell thee, 
who can tell of it better than I ; but it is nought to hide 
that yonder chamber is the chamber of estate of our 
Lady, and she sitteth there to hear the cases of folk and 
to give dooms.'.' 

The old woman crossed herself as she spoke, and 
Ralph wondered thereat, but asked no more questions, 
for he was scarce sorry that the carline would not tell 
him thereof, lest she should spoil the tale. 

So passed the evening, and he went to bed and slept 
as a young man should, and the next day he was 
up betimes and went abroad and mingled with the 
carles and queens afield ; but this time he spake not 
of the Lady, and heard nought to heed from any of 
that folk. So he went back to the castle and gat him 
a bow and arrows, and entered the thicket of the wood 
mgh where he and Roger first came out of it. He 
had prayed a young man of the folk to go with him, 
but he was not over willing to go, though he would not 
say wherefore. So Ralph went himself by himself and 
wandered some way into the wood, and saw nought 
worse than himself. As he came back, making a 
circuit toward the open meadows, he happened on a 
herd of deer in a lonely place, half wood half meadow, 
and there he slew a hart with one shaft, for he was a 
deft bowman. Then he went and fetched a leash of 
carles, who went with him somewhat less than half 

Ii8 



willingly, and between them they broke up the hart 
and carried him home to the castle, where the carline 
met them. She smiled on Ralph and prised the 
venison, and said withal that the hunting was well 
done ; ^^ For, as fond and as fair as thou mayst be, it 
is not good that young men should have their minds 
set on one thing only." Therewith she led him in to 
his meat, and set him down and served him ; and all 
the while of his dinner he was longing to ask her if 
she deemed that the Lady would come that day, since 
it was the last day of those which Roger had bidden 
him wait ; but the words would not out of his mouth. 

She looked at him and smiled, as though she had a 
guess of his thought^ and at last she said to him : 
** Thy tongue is tied to-day. Hast thou, after all, 
seen something strange in the wood ? " He shook 
his head for naysay. &id she : *' Why, then, dost thou 
not ask more concerning the Well at the World's End ? " 

He laughed, and said : '^ Maybe because I think 
that thou canst not tell me thereof." "Well," she 
said, ^^if I cannot, yet the book may, and this evening, 
when the sun is down, thou shalt have it." 

** I thank thee, mother," said he ; " but this is now 
the last day that Roger bade me wait. Dost thou 
think that he will come back to-night ? " and he red- 
dened therewith. " Nay," she s^d, " I know not, and 
thou carest not whether he will come or not. Yet I 
know that thou wilt abide here till some one else come, 
whether that be early or late." Again he reddened, 
and said, in a coaxing way : '^ And wilt thou give me 
guesting, mother, for a few more summer days ? " 

"Yea," she said, " and till summer is over, if need 
be, and the com is cut and carried, and till the winter 
is come and the latter end of winter is gone." He 
smiled faintly, though his heart fell, and he said : 
** Nay, mother, and can it by any chance be so long 
a-coming ? " 

119 



4€ 



O, f^ boy/' she said, *' thou wilt make it long, 
howsoever short it be. And now I will ^ve thee a 
rede, lest thou vex thyself sick and fret thy very heart 
To-morrow go see if thou canst meet thy fate instead 
of abiding it. Do on thy war-gear and take thy 
sword and try the adventure of the wildwood ; but go 
not over deep into it/* Said he : " But how if the 
Lady come while I am away from this house ? " 

'^ Sooth to say," said the carline, '^ I deem not that 
she wUl, for the way is long betwixt us and her." 

'^ Dost thou mean/' said Ralph, standing up from 
the board, '^ that she will not come ever ? I adjure 
thee not to beguile me with sofr words, but tell me 
the very sooth." *' There, there ! " said she, ** ait 
down, king's son ; eat thy meat and drink thy wine ; 
for to-morrow is a new day. She will come soon or 
late, if she be yet in the world. And now I will say 
no more to thee concerning this matter." 

Therewith she went her ways from the hall, and 
when she came back with hand-basin and towel, she 
ssud no word to him, but only smiled kindly. He 
went out presently into the meadow (for it was yet 
but early afternoon) and came among the haymaking 
folk and spake ^nith them, hoping that perchance 
some of them might speak again of the Lady of 
Abundance ; but none of them did so, though the 
old carle he had spoken with was there, and there 
also were the two maidens whom he had seen fishing ; 
and as for him, he was over faint-hearted to ask them 
any more questions concerning her. 

Yet he abode with them long, and ate and drank 
amidst the hay with them till the moon shone brightly. 
Then he went back to the castle and found the carline 
in the hall, and she had the book with her and gave it 
to him, and he sat down in the shot-window under 
the waxlights and fell to reading of it. 



1 20 



CHAPTER XIX. RALPH READETH IN A 
BOOK CONCERNING THE WELL AT THE 
WORLD'S END. 

FAIRLY written was that book^ with many pic- 
tures therein, the meaning of which Ralph knew 
not ; but amon|[st them was the image of the 
fair woman whom he had holpen at the want-ways of 
the wood^ and but four days ago was that, yet it 
seemed long and long to him. The book told not 
much about the Well at the World's End, but 
much it told of a cert^n woman whom no man that 
saw her could forbear to love : of her it told that 
erewhile she dwelt lonely in the wildwood (though 
how she came there was not said) and how a king's 
son found her there and brought her to his father's 
kingdom and wedded her, whether others were lief or 
loth: and in a little while, when the fame of her had 
spread, he was put out of his kingdom and his father's 
house for the love of her, because other kings and lords 
hankered after her ; whereof befel long and grievous 
war which she abode not to the end, but sought to her 
old place in the wildwood ; and how she found there 
another woman a sorceress^ who made her her thrall; 
and tormented her grievously with toil and stripes. 
And how again there came a knight to that place who 
was seeking the Well at the World's End, and bore 
her away with him ; and how the said knight was sl^n 
on the way, and she was taken by tyrants and robbers 
of the folk : but these being entangled in her love 
fought amongst themselves and she escaped, and went 
seeking that Well, and found it at the long last, and 
drank thereof, and throve ever after : and how she 
liveth yet, and is become the servant of the Well to 
entangle the seekers in her love and keep them from 
drinking thereof ; because there was no man that be- 
held her, but anon he was the thrall of her love, and 

121 



might not pluck his heart away from her to do any 
of the deeds whereby men thrive and win the pr^se of 
the people. 

Ralph read on and on till the short night waned, 
and the wax-lights &iled one after the other, and 
the windows of the hall grew grey and daylight came, 
and the throstles burst out a-singing at once in the 
castle pleasaunce, and the sun came up over the wood, 
and the sound of men-folk bestirring themselves a-field 
came to his ears through the open windows ; and at 
last he was done with the tale, and the carline came 
not near him though the sun had clomb high up the 
heavens. As for Ralph, what he had read was sweet 
poison to him ; for if before he was somewhat tor- 
mented by love, now was his heart sick and sore with 
it. Though he knew not for cerdun whether this tale 
had to do with the Lady of the Forest, and though he 
knew not if the Lady who should come to the castle 
were even she, yet he needs must deem that so it was, 
and his heart was weary ^th love, and his manhood 
seemed changed. 

CHAPTER XX. RALPH MEETETH A MAN 
IN THE WOOD. 

BUT the morning began to wear as he sat deep 
in these thoughts and still the Carline came not 
to him ; and he thought : ^^ She leaveth me 
alone that I may do her bidding : so will I without 
tarrying.'' And he arose and did on his hauberk and 
basnet, and girt his sword to his side, and went forth, 
a-foot as before. He crossed the river by a wide ford 
and stepping stones somewhat below the pool wherein 
he had bathed on that first day ; and already by then 
he had got so far, what with the fresh air of the 
beauteous morning, what with the cheerful tinkling of 
his sword and hauberk, he was somewhat amended of 

122 



his trouble and heaviness of spirit. A little way 
across the river, but nigher to the wood, was a house or 
cot of that country-folk, and an old woman sat spin- 
ning in the door. So Ralph went up thither, and 
greeted her, and craved of her a draught of milk ; so 
the goody turned about and cried out to one within, 
and there came forth one of the maidens whom Ralph 
had met fishing that other day, and the old woman 
bade her bring forth milk and bread. Then the 
carline looked hard at Ralph, and said: ^' Ah ! I have 
heard tell of thee : thou art abiding the turn of the 
days up at the castle yonder, as others have done be- 
fore thee. Well, well, belike thou shalt have thy 
wish, though whether it shall be to thy profit, who 
shall say ? '' 

Thereat Ralph's heart fell again, and he said : 
**Sayest thou, mother, that there have been others 
abiding like me in the tower ? I know not what thy 
words mean." 

The carline laughed. ** Well," said she, " here comes 
thy morning's bait borne by shapely hands enough ; 
eat and drink first; and then will I tell thee my meaning." 

Therewith came the maiden forth with the bowl 
and the loaf ; and indeed she was fair enough, and 
shy and kind ; but Ralph heeded her little, nor was 
his heart moved by her at all. She set a stool for him 
beside the door and he sat down and ate and drank, 
though his heart was troubled ; and the maiden hung 
about, and seemed to find it no easy matter to keep 
her eyes oflF him. 

Presently the carline, who had been watching the 
two, said : " Thou askest of the meaning of my words ; 
well, deemest thou that I have had more men than one 
to love me ? " "I know not, mother," said Ralph, 
who could scarce hold himself patient. ** There now ! " 
quoth the carline, ^' look at my damsel ! (she is not 
my daughter, but my brother's,) there is a man, and a 

123 



brisk kd too^ whom she calleth her batchelor, and is 
as I verily deem well-pleased with him : yet lo you 
how she eyeth thee^ thou fair man, and doth so with 
her raiment that thou mayst best see how shapely she 
is of limb and foot, and toyeth her right hand with her 
left wris^ and the like. — Well, as for me, I have had 
more lovers than one or two. And why have I had 
just so many and no more ? Nay, thou needest not 
make any long answer to me. I am old now, and 
even before I was old I was not young : I am now foul 
of favour, and even before I became foul, I was not so 
fair — well then ? *' 

" Yea, what then? " said Ralph. *♦ This then, fair 
young fool," said she: "the one whom thou lovest, 
long hath she lived, but she is not old to look on, nor 
foul ; but fair — O how fair ! *' 

Then Ralph forgot his fear, and his heart grew 
greedy and his eyes glistened, and he s^d, yet he 
spoke faintly : " Yea, is she fair ? " " What ! hast thou 
not seen her ? " said the carline. Ralph called to mind 
the guise in which he had seen her and flushed bright 
red, as he answered : '* Yea, I deem that I have: surely 
it was she." The carline laughed: ** Well," said she; 
^^ however thou hast seen her, thou hast scarce seen 
her as I have." Said Ralph, " How was that ? " Said 
she : ^* It is her way here in the summer-tide to bathe 
her in yonder pool up the water:" (and it was the same 
pool wherein Ralph had bathed) ^' and she hath me and 
my niece and two other women to hold up the silken 
cloth betwixt her body and the world ; so that I have 
seen her as God made her ; and I shall tell thee that 
when he was about that work he was minded to be a 
craftsmaster ; for there is no blemish about her that she 
should hide her at all or anywhere. Her sides are 
sleek, and her thighs no rougher than her face, and her 
feet as dainty as her hands: yea, she is a pearl all over, 
withal she is as strong as a knight, and I warrant her 

124 



hardier of heart than most knights. A happy man shalt 
thou be ; for surely I deem thou hast not come hither 
to abide her without some token or warrant of her." 

Ralph held down his head, and he could not meet 
the old woman's eyes as she spake thus; and the maiden 
took herself outof earshot atthe first words of the carline 
hereof, and was halfway down to the river by now. 

Ralph spake after a while and said : ^' Tell me, is 
she good^ and a good woman ? " The dame laughed 
scornfully and said : ^^ Surely, surely ; she is the saint 
of the Forest Land, and the guardian of all poor folk. 
Ask the carles else ! " 

Ralph held his peace, and rose to be gone^ and turn- 
ing saw the damsel wading the shallow ford, and 
looking over her shoulder at him. He gave the dame 
good day, and departed light-foot but heavy hearted. 
Yet as he went, he kept saying to himself: ** Did she 
not send that Roger to turn my ways hither ? yet she 
cometh not. Surely she hath changed in these last 
days, or it may be in these last hours : yea, or this very 
hour." 

Amidst such thoughts he came into the wood, and 
made his way bv the paths and open places, going 
south and east or the House : Whereas the last day he 
had gone west and north. He went a soft pace, but 
wandered on without any stay till it was noon, and he 
had seen nought but the wild things of the wood, nor 
many of them. But at last he heard the tinkle of a 
little bell coming towards him: so he stood still and 
got the hilt of his sword ready to his hand ; and the 
tinkle drew nearer, and he heard withal the trample of 
some riding-beast ; so he went toward the sound, and 
presently in a clearer place of the wood came upon a 
man of religion, a clerk, riding on a hackney, to whose 
neck hung a horse-beU : the priest had saddle bags 
beside him and carried in his right hand a book in a 
bag. When he met Ralph he blessed him, and Ralph 

125 



gave him the sele of the day, and asked him whither 
he would. Said the Priest: '^ I am for the Little Plain 
and the Land of Abundance ; whence art thou, my son, 
and whither wilt thou ? " " From that very land I 
come," said Ralph, '* and as to whither, I seek adven- 
tures ; but unless I see more than I have this forenoon, 
or thou canst tell me of them, back will I whence I 
came : yet to say sooth, I shall not be sorry for a fellow 
to help me back, for these woodland ways are some- 
what bUnd." 

Said the Priest : " I will bear thee company with a 
good will ; and I know the road right well ; for I am 
the Vicar appointed by the fathers otthe Thorn to serve 
the church of the Little Plain, and the chapel of St. 
Anthony yonder in the wood, and to-day I go to the 
church of the good folk there." 

So Ralph turned, and went along with him, walking 
by his bridle-rein. And as they went the priest said to 
him : " Art thou one of my lady's lords ? " Ralph 
reddened as he sighed, and said : '* I am no captain of 
hers." Then smiled the priest and sjud: " Then will 
I not ask thee of thine errand ; for belike thou wouldest 
not tell me thereof." 

Ralph said nought, but waxed shamefaced as he 
deemed that the priest eyed him curiously. At last 
he said : '^ I will ask thee a question in turn, father." 
" Yea," said the priest. Said Ralph : ** This lady of 
the land, the Lady of Abundance, is she a very 
woman ? " " Holy Saints ! " quoth the priest, blessing 
himself, " what meanest thou ? " Said Ralph : " I mean, 
is she of those who outwardly have a woman's sem- 
blance, but within are of the race of the ancient devils, 
the gods of the Gentiles ? " 

Then the priest crossed himself again, and spake as 
solemnly as a judge on the bench: ^^Son, I pray that 
if thou art not in thy right mind, thou will come there- 
intp ^pn. Know this, that whatever else she may be, 

i%6 



she is a right holy woman. Or hast thou perchance 
heard any evil tales concerning her ? " 

Now Ralph was confused at his word, and knew 
not what to say ; for though in his mind he had been 
piecing together all that he had heard of the lady both 
for good and for evil, he had no clear tale to tell even 
to himself: so he answered nothing. 

But the priest went on : ^^ Son, I shall tell thee that 
such taleslhave heard,but from whose mouth forsooth ? 
I will tell thee ; from a sort of idle jades, young women 
who would be thought fairer than they be, who are 
afraid of everything save a naked man, and who can 
lie easier than they can say their paternoster : from 
such as these come the stories ; or from old crones who 
live in sour anger with themselves and all else, be- 
cause they have lived no goodly life in their youth, and 
have not learned the loveliness of holy church. Now, 
son,shall the tales of such women,old and young, weigh 
in thy mind beside the word I tell thee of what I have 
seen and know concerning this most excellent of ladies ? 
I trow not. And for my part I tell thee, that though 
she is verily as fair as Venus (God save us) yet is she as 
chaste as Agnes, as wise as Katherine,and as humble and 
meek as Dorothy. She bestoweth her goods plentifully 
to the church, and is merciful to poor men therewith ; 
and so far as occasion may serve her she is constant at 
the Holy Office ; neither doth she spare to confess her 
sins, and to do all penance which is bidden her, yea and 
more. For though I cannot say to my knowledge that 
she weareth a hair ; yet once and agun have I seen her 
wending this woodland toward the chapel of her friend 
St. Anthony by night and cloud, so that few might see 
her, obedient to the Scripture which sayeth, ' Let not thy 
right hand know what thy left hand doeth,' and she 
barefoot in her smock amidst the rugged wood, and 
so arrayed fairer than any queen in a golden gown. 
Yea, as fair as the woodwives of the ancient heathen." 

127 



There^th the priest stayed his words^ and seemed 
as if he were fallen into a dream ; and he sighed 
heavily. But Ralph walked on by his bridle-rein 
dreamy no less ; for the words that he had heard he 
heeded not^ save as they made pictures for him of the 
ways of that woman of the forest. 

So they went on soberly till the priest lifted up his 
head and looked about like one come out of slumber^ 
and said in a firm voice : '^ I tell thee, my son, that 
thou mayest set thy love upon her without sin/' And 
therewith suddenly he fell a-weeping ; and Ralph was 
ill at ease of his weeping, and went along by him 
saying nought ; till the priest plucked up heart again, 
and said, turning to Ralph, but not meeting his eye : 
"My son, I weep because men and women are so 
evil, and mis-say each other so sorely, even as they do 
by this holy woman." As he spake his tears brake 
out agsun, and Ralph strode on fas^ so as to outgo 
him, thinldng it unmannerly to seem as if he noted 
not his sorrow ; yet withal unable to say aught to him 
thereof. Moreover it irked him to hear a grown man 
weeping for grief, even though it were but a priest. 

within a while the priest caught up with him, his 
tears all staunched, and fell to talk with him cheerfully 
concerning the wood, and the Little Land and the 
dwellers therein and the conditions of them, and he 
prised them much, save the women. Ralph answered 
him with good cheer in likewise ; and thus they came 
to the cot of the old woman, and both she and the 
m^den were without the house, the old carline hither- 
ing and thithering on some errand, the maiden leaning 
against a tree as if pondering some matter. As they 
passed by, the priest blessed them in words, but his 
eyes scowled on them, whereat the carline grinned, 
but the damsel heeded him not, but looked wistfully 
on Ralph. The priest muttered somewhat as he passed, 
which Ralph caught not the meaning of, and fell 

128 



moody again ; and when he was a little past the ford 
he drew rein and said : ** Now, son, I must to my cell 
hard by the church yonder : but yet I will say one 
word to thee ere we sunder ; to wit, that to my mind 
the Holy Lady will love no one but the saints of 
heaven, save it be some man i;nth whom all women 
arc in love." 

Therewith he turned away suddenly, and rode 
smartly towards his church ; and Ralph deemed that 
he was weeping once more. As for Ralph, he went 
quietly home toward the castle, for the sun was setting 
now, and as he went he pondered all these things in 
his heart. 



CHAPTER XXI. RALPH WEARETH AWAY 
THREE DAYS UNEASILY. 

HE read again in the book that night, till he had 
gotten the whole tale into his head, and he 
specially noted this of it, that it told not 
whence that Lady came, nor what she was, nor aught 
else save that there she was in the wood by herself, 
and was found therein by the king's son : neither 
told the tale in what year of the world she was found 
there, though it told concerning all the war and 
miseries which she had bred, and which long endiu-ed. 
Again, he could not gather from that book why she 
had gone back to the lone place in the woods, whereas 
she might have wedded one of those warring barons 
who sorely desired her : nor why she had yielded her- 
self to the witch of that place and endured with 
patience her thralldom, with stripes and torments of 
her body, like the worst of the thralls of the ancient 
heathen men. Lastly, he might not learn from the 
book where in the world was that lone place, or aught 
of the road to the Well at the World's End. But 
amidst all his thinking his heart came back to this : 

129 K 



*' When I meet her, she will tell me of it all ; I need be 
no wiser than to learn how to meet her and to make 
her love me ; then shall she show me the way to the 
Well at the World's End, and I shall drink thereof and 
never grow old, even as she endureth in youth, and 
she shall love me for ever, and I her for ever." 

So he thought ; but yet amidst these happy thoughts 
came in this evil one, that whereas all the men-folk 
spoke well of her and worshipped her, the women-folk 
feared her or hated her; even to the lecherous old 
woman who had praised the beauty of her body for 
his torment. So he thought till his head grew heavy, 
and he went and lay down in his bed and slept, 
and dreamed of the days of Upmead ; and things for- 
gotten in his waking time came between him and any 
memories of his present longing and the days thereof. 

He awoke and arose betimes in the morning, and 
when he had breakfasted he bade the carline bring 
him his weapons. " Wilt thou again to the wood ?" 
said she. " Didst thou not bid me fare thither yester- 
day?" said he. ** Yea," she said; "but to-day I 
fear lest thou depart and come not back." He 
laughed and said : ^' Seest thou not, mother, that I 
go afoot, and I in hauberk and helm ? I cannot run 
far or fast from thee. Also" (and here he broke off 
his speech a little) " where should I be but here ? " 

"Ah," she s^d, " but who knows what may happen ? " 
Nevertheless she went and fetched his war-gear and 
looked at him fondly as he did it on, and went his 
ways from the hall. 

Now he entered the wood more to the south than 
he had done yesterday, and went sofrly as before, and 
still was he turning over in his mind the thoughts of 
last night, and ever they came back. " Might I but 
see her ! Would she but love me ! O for a draught 
of the Well at the World's End, that the love might 
last long and long ! " 

130 



So he went on a while betwixt the trees and the 
thickets, till it was a little past noon. But all on a 
sudden a panic fear took him, lest she should indeed 
come to the castle while he was away, and not finding 
him, depart again, who knows whither ; and when this 
thought came upon him, he cried aloud, and hastened 
at his swiftest back again to the castle, and came 
there breathless and wearied, and ran to the old wo- 
man, and cried out to her ; ^ Is she come ? is she 
come?" 

The carline laughed and said, *' Nay, she is not, but 
thou art come : praise be to the saints ! But what 
aileth thee? Nay, fear not, she shall come at last." 

Then grew Ralph shamefaced and turned away from 
her, and miscalled himself for a fool and a dastard 
that could not abide the pleasure of his lady at the 
very place whereto she had let lead him. So he wore 
through the remnant of the day howso he might, with- 
out going out-adoors again ; and the carline came and 
spake with him ; but whatever he asked her about the 
lady, she wotdd not tell aught of any import^ so he 
refr^ned him from that talk, and made a show of 
hearkening when she ^ake of other matters ; as tales 
concerning the folk of the land, and the Fathers of 
the Thorn, and so forth. 

On the next morning he arose and said to himself, 
that whatever betid, he would bide in the castle and the 
Plain of Abundance till the lady came ; and he went 
amongst the haymakmg folk in the morning and ate 
his dinner with them, and strove to be of good cheer, 
and belike the carles and queens thought him merry 
company ; but he was now wearying his heart with 
longing, and might not abide any great while in one 
place ; so when, dinner over, they turned to their work 
again, he went back to the Castle, and read in that 
book, and looked at the pictures thereof, and kept 
turning his wonder and hope and fear over and over 

131 



again in his mind, and making tp himself stories of 
how he should meet the Lady and what she would 
say to him, and how he should answer her, till at last 
the night came, and he went to his bed, and slept for 
the very weariness of his longing. 

When the new day came he arose and went into 
the hall, and foimd the carline there, who said to him, 
**Fair sir, wilt thou to thfe wood again to-day?" 
« Nay," said Ralph, '' I must not, I dare not/' "Well," 
she said, " thou mayest if thou wilt ; why shouldst 
thou not go ?" Said Ralph, reddening and stanuner- 
ing : " Because I fear to ; thrice have I been away 
long from the castle and all has gone well ; but the 
fourth time she will come and find me gone/' 

The carline laughed : " Well/' she said, «* I shall 
be here if thou goest ; for I promise thee not to stir 
out of the house whiles thou art away/' Said Ralph : 
" Nay, I will abide here." *' Yea/' she said, *^ I see : 
thou trustest me not. Well, no matter ; and to-day 
it will be handy if thou abidest. For I have an errand 
to my brother in the flesh, who is one of the brethren 
of the Thorn over yonder. If thou wilt give me 
leave, it will be to my pleasure and gain." 

Ralph was glad when he heard this, deeming that 
if she left him alone there, he would be the less tempted 
to stray into the wood again. Besides, he deemed 
that the Lady might come that day when he was alone 
in the Castle, and that himseemed would make the 
meeting sweeter yet. So he yea-said the carline's 
asking joyously, and in an hour's time she went her 
ways and left him alone there. 

Ralph said to himself, when he saw her depart, that 
he would have the more joy in the castle of his Lady 
if he were alone, and would wear away the day in 
better patience therefor. But in sooth the hours of 
that day were worse to wear than any day there had 
yet been. He went not without the house at all that 

132 



day, for he deemed that the folk abroad would note 
of him that he was so changed and restless. 

Whiles he read in that book, or turned the leaves 
overj not reading it ; whiles he went into the Chamber 
of Estate, and pored over the woven pictures there 
wherein the Lady was figured. Whiles he wandered 
from chamber to chamber, not knowing what to do. 

At last, a little after dark, back comes the carline 
again, and he met her at the door of the hall, for he 
was weary of his own company, and the ceaseless turn- 
ing over and over of the same thoughts. 

As for her, she was so joyous of him that she fkirly 
threw her arms about him and kissed and clipped him, 
as though she had been his very mother. Whereof 
he had some shame, but not much, for he deemed that 
her goodwill to him was abundant, which indeed it was. 

Now she looks on him and says : ^* Truly it does 
my heart good to see thee : but thou poor boy, thou 
art wearing thyself with thy longing, and thy doubt- 
ing, and if thou wilt do after my rede, thou wilt cer- 
tainly go into the wood to-morrow and see what may 
befall; and indeed and in sooth thou wilt leave behind 
thee a trusty friend." 

He looked on her kindly, and smiled, and said, 
^^ In sooth, mother, I deem thou art but right ; though 
it be hard for me to leave this house, to which in a 
way my Lady hath bidden me. Yet I will do thy 
bidding herein." She thanked him^ and he went to 
his bed and slept ; for now that he had made up his 
mind to go, he was somewhat more at rest. 



^33 



CHAPTER XXII. AN ADVENTURE IN 
THE WOOD. 

RALPH arrayed himself for departure next morn- 
ing without more words; and when he was 
ready the carline said to him : " When thou 
wentest forth before, I was troubled at thy going and 
feared for thy returning : but now I fear not ; for I 
know that thou wilt return ; though it may be leading 
a fair woman by the hand. So go, and all luck go 
with thee." Ralph smiled at Ijer words, and went 
his ways, and came into the wood that lay due south 
from the Castle, and he went on and on and had no 
thought of turning back. He rested twice and still 
went on, till the fashion of the thickets and the woods 
changed about him ; and at last when the sun was 
getting low, he saw light gleaming through a great 
wood of pines, which had long been dark before him 
against the tall boles, and soon he came to the very 
edge of the wood, and going heedfully, saw between 
the great stems of the outermost trees, a green strand, 
and beyond it a long smooth water, a little lake be- 
tween green banks on either side. He came out of 
the pinewood on to the grass ; but there were thorn- 
bushes a few about, so that moving warily from one 
to the other, he might perchance see without being seen. 
Warily he went forsooth, going along the green strand 
to the east and the head of that water, and saw how 
the bank sloped up gently from its ending toward the 
pine- wood, in front of whose close-set trees stood three 
great-boled tall oak-trees on a smooth piece of green 
sward. And now he saw that there were folk come 
before him on this green place, and keen-sighted as he 
was, could make out that three men were on the hither 
side of the oak-trees, and on the fiirther side of them 
was a white horse. Thitherward then he made, steal- 
ing from bush to bush, since he deemed that he needed 

1 34 



not be seen of men who might be foes, for at the first 
sight he had noted the gleam of weapons there. And 
now he had gone no long way before he saw the 
westering sun shine brightly from a naked sword, and 
then another sprang up to meet it, and he heard faintly 
the clash of steel, and saw withal that the third of the 
folk had long and light raiment and was a woman 
belike. Then he bettered his pace, and in a mmute 
or two came so near that he could see the men clearly^ 
that they were clad in knightly war-gear, and were 
laying on great strokes so that the still place rang with 
the clatter. As for the woman, he could see but little 
of her, because of the fighting men before her; and 
the shadow of the oak boughs fell on her withal. 

Now as he went, hidden by the bushes, they hid 
the men also from him, and when he was come to the 
last bush, some fifty paces from them, and peered out 
fi-om it, in that very nick of time the two knights were 
breathing them somewhat, and Ralph saw that one of 
them, the furthest from him, was a very big man with 
a blue surcoat whereon was beaten a great golden sun, 
and the other, whose back was towards Ralph, was 
clad in black over his armour. Even as he looked 
and doubted whether to show himself or not, he of the 
sun raised his sword aloft, and giving forth a great 
roar as of wrath and grief mingled together, rushai on 
his foe and smote so fiercely that he fell to the earth 
before him, and the big man fell upon him as he fell, 
and let knee and sword-pommel and fist follow the 
stroke, and there they wallowed on the earth together. 

Straightway Ralph came forth from the bushes with 
his drawn sword in his hand, and even therewith what 
with the two knights being both low upon the earth, 
what with the woman herself coming from out the 
shadow of the oak boughs, and turning her toward 
Ralph, he saw her clearly, and stood staring and amazed 
— for lo ! it was the Lady whom he had delivered at the 

^35 



want-ways. His heart well nigh stood still with joy, 
yet was he shamefaced also : for though now she was 
no longer clad in that scanty raiment, yet did he seem 
to see her body through that which covered it. But 
now her attire was but simple ; a green gown, thin and 
short, and thereover a cote-hardy of black cloth with 
orphreys of gold and colours : but on her neck was a 
collar that seemed to him like to that which Dame 
Katherine had given him ; and the long tresses of her 
hair, which he had erst seen floating loose about her, 
were wound as a garland around her head. She looked 
with a flushed and joyous face on Ralph, and seemed 
as if she heeded nought the battle of the knights, but 
saw him only : but he feared her, and his love for her 
and stood still, and durst not move forward to gp to 
her. 

Thus they abode for about the space of one nunute : 
and meanwhile the big man rose up on one knee and 
steacUed him with his sword for a moment of time, 
and the blade was bloody from the point half way up 
to the hilt ; but the black knight lav still and made 
no agn of life. Then the Knight or the Sun rose up 
slowly and stood on his feet and faced the Lady and 
seemed not to see Ralph, for his back was towards 
him. He came slowly toward the Lady, scowling, 
and his face white as chalk; then he spake to her 
coldly and sternly, stretching out his bloody sword 
before her. 

" I have done thy bidding, and slain my very earthly 
friend of friends for thy sake. Wherewith wilt thou 
reward me ? *' 

Then once more Ralph heard the voice, which he 
remembered so sweet amidst peril and battle aforetime, 
as she said as coldly as the Knight : ^^ I bade thee not : 
thine own heart bade thee to strive with him because 
thou deemedst that he loved me. Be content ! thou 
hast slain him who stood in thy way, as thou deemedst 

136 



Thinkest thou that I rejoice at his slaying ? O no ! 
I grieve at it, for all that I had such good cause to 
hate him." 

He said : " My own heart ! my own heart ! Half 
of my heart biddeth me slay thee, who hast made me 
slay him. What wilt thou give me ? " She knit her 
brow and spake angrily : " Leave to depart," she said. 
Then after a while, and in a kinder voice : " And thus 
much of my love, that I pray thee not to sorrow for 
me, but to have a good heart, and live as a true knight 
should." He frowned : ** Wilt thou not go with me ? '* 
said he. " Not uncompclled," she said : " if thou 
biddest me go with threats of hewing and mangling 
the body which thou sayest thou lovest, needs must I 
go then. Yet scarce wilt thou do this." 

" I have a mind to try it," said he ; **If I set thee 
on thine horse and bound thine hands for thee, and 
linked thy fett together under the beast's belly ; 
belike thou wouldest come. Shall I have slain my 
brother-in-arms for nought ? " 

** Thou hast the mind," said she, " hast thou the 
might ? " " So I deem," said he, smiling grimly. 

She looked at him proudly and said : ^ Yea, but I 
misdoubt me thereof." He still had his back to 
Ralph and was staring at the lady ; she turned her head 
a little and made a sign to Ralph, just as the Knight 
of the Sun said : " Thou misdoubtest thee ? Who 
shall help thee in the desert ? " 

'^Look over thy left shoulder," she said. He 
turned, and saw Ralph drawing near, sword in hand, 
smiling, but somewhat pale. He drew aback from the 
Lady and, spinning round on his heel^ faced Ralph, 
and cried out : '^ Hah ! Hast thou raised up a devil 
against me, thou sorceress, to take from me my grief 
and my lust, and my life ? Fair will the game be to 
fight with thy devil as I have fousht with my friend ! 
Yet now I know not whether I shsdl slay him or thee." 

137 



She spake not, but stood quietly looking on him^ 
not unkindly, while a wind came up from the water and 
played with a few light locks of hair that himg down 
from that ruddy crown, and blew her raiment from 
her feet and wrapped it close roimd her limbs ; and 
Ralph beheld her, and close as was the very death to 
him (for huge and most warrior-like was his foeman) 
yet longing for her melted the heart within him^ and 
he felt the sweetness of life in his inmost soul as he 
had never felt it before. 

Suddenly the Knight of the Sun turned about to the 
Lady again, and fell down on his knees before her, 
and clasped his hands as one praying, and said : *' Now 
pardon me all my words, I pray thee; and let this 
young man depart unhurt, whether thou madest him, 
or hast but led him away from country s^nd friends 
and all. Then do thou come with me, and make 
some semblance of loving me, and suffer me to love 
thee. And then shall all be well, for in a few days we 
will go back to thy people, and there will I be their 
lord or thy servant^ or my brother's man, or what thou 
wilt. O wilt thou not let the summer days be sweet ? " 

But she spake, holding up her head proudly and 
speaking in a clear ringing voice : ^^ I have said it, that 
uncompelled I will not go with thee at all." And there- 
withal she turned her tace toward Ralph, as she might 
do on any chance-met courteous man, and he saw her 
smiling, but she said nought to him, and gave no token 
of knowing him. Then the Knight of the Sun sprang 
to his feet, and shook his sword above his head, and 
ran furiously on Ralph, who leapt nimbly on one side 
(else had he been slain at once) and fetched a blow at 
the Sun-Knight, and smote him, and brake the mails on 
his left shoulder, so that the blood sprang, and fell on 
fiercely enough, smiting to right and left as the other 
gave back at his first onset. But all was for nought, 
for the Knight of the Sun, after his giving aback under 

138 



that first stroke drew himself up stark and stifF, and 
pressing on through all Ralph's strokes^ though they 
rent his mail here and there^ ran within his sword^ 
and smote him furiously with the sword-pommel on 
the side of the head, so that the young man of Up- 
meads could not stand up under the weight of the 
blow, but fell to the earth swooning, and the Knight 
of the Sun knelt on him, and drew out an anlace, short, 
thick and sharp, and cried out : " Now, Devil, let see 
whether thou wilt bleed black." Therewith he raised 
up his hand : but the weapon was stayed or ever it 
fell, for the Lady had glided up to them when she saw 
that Ralph was overcome, and now she stretched out 
her arm and caught hold of the Knight's hand and the 
anlace withal, and he groaned and cried out : " What 
now ! thou art strong-armed as well as white-armed ; 
(for she had rent the sleeve back from her right 
arm) and he laughed in the extremity of his wrath. 
But she was pale and her lips quivered as she said softly 
and sweetly : ** Wilt thou verily slay this young man ? " 

"And why not ? " said he, ** since I have just slain 
the best friend that I ever had, though he was nought 
willing to fight with me, and only for this, that I saw 
thee toying with him ; though forsooth thou hast s^d 
truly that thou hadst more reason to hate him than 
love him. Well, since t hou wilt not have this young- 
ling slain, I may deem at least that he is no devil of 
thy making, else wouldst thou be glad of his slaying, 
so that he might be out of the path of thee ; so a man 
he is, and a well-favoured one, and young ; and valiant, 
as it seemeth: so I suppose that he is thy lover, or 
will be one day — ^well then — " 

And he lifted his hand ag^n, but again she stayed 
him, and said : ^* Look thou, I will buy him of thee : 
and, indeed, I owe him a life." " How is that ? " said 
he. "Why wouldst thou know?" she said; "thou 
who, if thou hadst me in thine hands again, wouldst 

1 39 



keep me away from all men. Yea, I know what thou 
wooldst say, thou wouldst keep me from sinmng again." 
And she smiled, but bitterly. " Well, the tale is no 
long one : '^ five days ago I was taken by them of the 
Burg : and thou wottest what they would do with me; 
yea, even if they deemed me less than they do deem me: 
well, as two of their men-at-arms were leacUng me 
alone by a halter, as a calf is led to the butcher, we 
fell m with this goodly lad, who slew them both in 
manly fashion, and I escap^ for that time: though, 
forsooth, I must needs put my neck in the noose ^ain 
in delivering four of our people, who would else have 
been tormented to death by die Burgers." 

"Well," said the knignt, *^ perchance thou hast 
more mercy than I looked for of thee ; though I mis- 
doubt thee that thou mayst yet pray me or some other 
to slay him for thee. Thou art merciful, my Queen, 
though not to me, and a churl were I if I were less 
merciful than thou. Therefore will I give his life to 
him, yet not to thee will I give him if I may help it 
— Lo you. Sweet ! he is just opening his eyes." 

Therewith he rose up from Ralph, who raised him- 
self a little, and sat up dazed and feeble.. The Knight 
of the Sun stood up over him beside the lady with his 
hands clasped on his sword-hilt, and said to Ralph : 
*' Young man, canst thou hear my words ? " Rdph 
smiled feebly and nodded a yea-say. '' Dost thou love 
thy life then ? " said the Knight. Ralph found speech 
and said faintly, '* Yea." Said the Knight : " Where 
dost thou come from, where is thine home ? " Said 
Ralph, " Upmeads." " Well then," quoth the big 
knight, "go back to Upmeads, and live." Ralph 
shook his head and knit his brows and said, '^ I will 
not." " Yea," said the Knight, " thou wilt not live ? 
Then must I shape me to thy humour. Stand on thy 
feet and fight it out ; for now I am cool I will not 
slay a swordless man." 

140 



Ralph staggered up to his feet, but was so feeble 
stilly that he sank down again, and mutteredi '' I may 
not ; I am sick and fiunt ; " and therewith swooned 
away again. But the Knight stood a while leaning 
on his sword, and looking down on him not unkindly. 
Then he turned about to the Lady, but lo ! she had 
left his side. She had glided away, and got to her 
horse, which was tethered on the other side of the oak- 
tree, and had loosed him and mounted him, and so sat 
in the saddle there, the reins gathered in her hands. 
She smiled on the knight as he stood astonished, and 
cried to him ; ** Now, lord, I warn thee, draw not a 
single foot nigher to me ; for thou seest that I have 
Silverfax between my knees, and thou knowest how 
swift he is, and if I see, thee move^ he shall spring away 
with me. Thou wottest how well I know all the ways 
of the woodland, and I tell thee that the ways behind 
me to the Dry Tree be all safe and open^ and that 
beyond the Gliding River I shall come on Roger of 
the Ropewalk and his men. And if thou thinkest to 
ride after me, and overtake me, cast the thought out 
of thy mind. For thy horse is strong but heavy, as 
is meet for so big a knight, and morever he is many 
yards away ftom me and Silverfax : so before thou 
art in the saddle, where shall I be f Yea,*' (for the 
Knight was handling his anlace) ^'thou mayst cast 
it, and peradventure mayst hit Silverfax and not me, 
and peradventure not ; and I deem that it is my body 
alive that thou wouldest have back with thee. So 
now, wilt thou hearken ? '* 

" Yea," quoth the knight, though for wrath he 
could scarce bring the word from his mouth. 

** Hearken," she said, " this is the bargain to be 
struck between us : even now thou wouldst not refrain 
from slaying this young man, unless perchance he 
should swear to depart ftom us ; and as for me, I 
would not go back with thee to Sunhome, where erst 

141 



thou shamedst me. Now will I buy thy nay-say with 
mine, and if thou give the youngling his life, and 
suffer him to come his ways with us, then will I go 
home with thee and will ride with thee in all the love 
and duty that I owe thee ; or if thou like this fashion 
of words better, I will give thee my body for his life. 
But if thou likest not the bargain, there is not another 
piece of goods for thee in the market, for then I will 
ride my ways to the Dry Tree, and thou shalt slay the 
poor youth, or make of him thy sworn friend, like as 
was Walter — which thou wilt" 

So she spake, and Ralph yet lay on the grass and 
heard nought But the Knight's face was dark and 
swollen with anger as he answered: ^^My sworn 
friend ! yea, I understand thy gibe. I need not thy 
words to bring to my mind how I have slain one 
sworn friend for thy sake.*' 

" Nay," she said, " not for my sake, for thine own 
folly's sake." He heeded her not, but went on : 
'^ And as for this one, I say again of him, if he be 
not thy devil, then thou meanest him for thy lover. 
And now I deem that I will verily slay him, ere he 
wake again; belike it were his better luck." 

She said : " I wot not why thou baggiest over the 
price of that thou wouldest have. If thou have him 
along with thee, shall he not be in thy power — ^as I 
shall be ? and thou mayst slay him — or me — ^when 
thou wilt." 

" Yea," he said, grimly, " when thou art weary of 
him. O art thou not shameless amongst women ! 
Yet must I needs pay thy price, though my honour 
and the welfare of my life go with it. Yet how if he 
have no will to fare with us?" She laughed and 
said : " Then shalt thou have him with thee as thy 
captive and thrall. Hast thou not conquered him in 
battle ? " He stood silent a moment and then he 
said : "Thou sayest it ; he shall come with me, will he, 

142 



iiill he, unarmed, and as a prisoner, and the spoil of my 
valiancy." And he laughed, not altogether in bitter- 
ness, but as if some joy were rising in his heart. 
" Now, my Queen," said he, " the bargain is struck 
betwixt us, and thou mayest light down off Silverfax ; 
as for me, I will go fetch water from the lake, that we 
may wake up this valiant and mighty youth, this new- 
found jewel, and bring him to his wits again." 

She answered nought, but rode her horse close to 
him and lighted down nimbly, while his greedy eyes 
devoured her beauty. Then he took her hand and 
drew her to him, and kissed her cheek, and she suffered 
it, but kissed him not again. Then he took off his 
helm, and went down to the lake to fetch up water 
therein. 



CHAPTER XXIII. THE LEECHCRAFT OF 
THE LADY. 

MEANWHILE she went to Ralph and stood 
by him, who now began to stir again ; and 
she knelt down by him and kissed his face 
gently^ and rose up hastily and stood a little aloof 
again. 

Now Ralph sat up and looked about him, and when 
he saw the Lady he first blushed red, and then turned 
very pale ; for the full life was in him again, and he 
knew her, and love drew strongly at his heart-strings. 
But she looked on him kindly and said to him : ^' How 
fares it with thee ? I am sorry of thy hurt which thou 
hast had for me." He said : " Forsooth, Lady, a 
chance knock or two is no great matter for a lad of 
Upmeads. But oh ! I have seen thee before." " Yea, 
she said, " twice before, fair knight." " How is that ? 
he said ; *' once I saw thee, the fairest thing in the 
world, and evil men would have led thee to slaughter ; 
but not twice." 

^43 



99 



She smiled on him still more kindly, as if he were 
a dear friend^ and said simply : '^ I was that lad in the 
cloak that ye saw in the Flower de Luce ; and after- 
wards when ye, thou and Roger, fled away from the 
Burg of the Four Friths. I had come into the Burg 
Mrith my captain of war at the peril of our lives to 
deliver four faithful friends of mine who were else 
doomed to an evil death/' 

He said nought, but gazed at her face, wondering at 
her valiancy and goodness. She took him by the hand 
now, and held it without speaking for a little while, 
and he sat there still looking up into her face, wondering 
at her sweetness and his happiness. Then she said, as 
she drew her hand away and spake in such a voice, and 
so looking at him, that every word was as a caress to 
him : " Thy soul is coming back to thee, my friend, 
and thou art well at ease : is it not so ? " 

** O yea," he sdd, '* and I woke up happily e*en 
now ; for me-dreamed that my gossip came to me and 
kissed me kindly ; and she is a fair woman, but not a 
young woman." 

As he spoke the knight, who had come nearly 
noiselessly over the grass, stood by them, holding his 
helm full of water, and looking grimly upon them ; 
but the Lady looked up at him with wide eyes won- 
deringly, and Ralph, beholding her, deemed that all he 
had heard of her goodness was but the very sooth. 
But the knight spake : ^^ Young man, thou hast fought 
with me, thou knowest not wherefore, and grim was 
my mood when thou madest thine onset, and still is, 
so that never but once wilt thou be nigher thy death 
than thou hast been this hour. But now I have given 
thee life because of the asking of this lady ; and there- 
with I give thee leave to come thy ways with us : nay, 
rather I command thee to come, for thou art my pri- 
soner, to be kept or ransomed, or set free as I will. 
But my will is that thou shalt not have thine armour 

144 



and weapons ; and there is a cause for this^ which 
mayhappen I will tell thee hereafter. But now I bid 
thee drink of this water, and then do off thine helm 
and hauberk and give me thy sword and dagger, and 
go with us peaceably ; and be not overmuch ashamed, 
for I have overcome men who boasted themselves to 
be great warriors. 

So Ralph drank of the water, and did off his helm, 
and cast water on his face, and arose, and said smiling: 
^' Nay, my master, I am nought ashamed of my mishaps : 
and as to my going with thee and the Lady, thou hast 
heard me say under thy dagger that I would not for- 
bear to follow her ; so I scarce need thy command 
thereto." The knight scowled on him and said : 
" Hold thy peace, fool ! Thou wert best not stir my 
wrath again." " Nay," said Ralph, ** thou hast my 
sword, and mayst slay me if thou wilt ; therefore be 
not word-valiant with me." 

S^d the Knight of the Sun : *' Well, well, thou 
hast the right of it there. Only beware lest thou 
try me overmuch. But now must we set forth on our 
rcKsd ; and here is work for thee to do : a hundred 
yards within the thick wood in a straight line fh>m 
the oak-tree thou shalt find two horses, mine and the 
knight's who fell before me ; go thou and bring them 
hither ; for I will not leave thee with my lady, lest I 
have to slay thee in the end, and maybe her also." 

Ralph nodded cheerfuUv, and set off on his task, 
and was the readier therein because the Lady looked on 
him kindly and compassionately as he went by her. 
He found the horses speedily, a black horse that was 
of the Black Knight, and a bay of the Knight of the 
Sun, and he came back with them lightly. 

But when he came to the oak-tree again, lo, the 
knisht and the Lady both kneeling over the body of 
the Black Knight, and Ralph saw that the Knight of 
the Sun was sobbing and weeping sorely, so that he 

145 I- 



deemed that he was taking leave of his fiiend that lay 
dead there : but when Rdph had tied up those other 
two steeds by Silverfax and drawn near to those twain, 
the Kmght of the Sun looked up at him^ and spake 
in a cheerful voice : " Thou seemest to be no ill man, 
though thou hast come across my lady ; so now I bid 
thee rdoice that there is a good knight more in the 
world than we deemed e*en now ; for this my fiiend 
Walter the Black is alive still." « Yea," said the Lady, 
** and belike he shall live a long while yet." 

So Ralph looked, and saw that they had stripped 
the knight of his hauberk and helm, and bared his 
body, and that the Lady was dressing a great and sore 
wound in his side; neither was he come to himself 
again: he was a young man, and very goodly to look 
on, dark haired and straight of feature, fair of face ; and 
Ralph felt a grief at his heart as he beheld the Lady's 
hands dealing with his bare flesh, though nought the 
man knew of it belike. 

As for the Knight of the Sun, he was no more grim 
and moody, but smiling and joyous, and he spake and 
said : ^ Young man, this shall stand thee in good stead 
that I have not sl^n my friend this bout. Sooth to 
say, it might else have gone hard with thee on the 
way to my house, or still more in my house. But 
now be of good heart, for unless of thine own folly 
thou run on the sword's point, thou mayst yet live 
and do well." Then he turned to the Lady and said: 
" Dame, for as good a leech as ye be, ye may not heal 
this man so that he may sit in his saddle within these 
ten days; and now what is to do in this matter ?" 

She looked on him with smiling lips and a strange 
light in her eyes, and said : " Yea, forsooth, what wilt 
thou do ? Wilt thou abide here by Walter thyself 
alone, and let me bring the imp of Upmeads home to 
our house? Or wilt thou ride home and send folk 
with a litter to us ? Or shall this youngling ride at 

1^6 



all adventure^ and seek to Sunway through the blind 
woodland ? Which shall it be ? " 

The knight laughed outright, and said : " Yea, f^r 
one, this is much like to the tale of the carle at the ferry 
with the fox, and the goat, and the cabbage." 

There was scarce a smile on her face as she said 
gently : ^ One thing is to be thought of, that Walter's 
soul is not yet so fast in his body that either thou or 
some rough-handed leech may be sure of healing him; 
it must be this hand, and the learning which it hath 
learned which must deal with him for a while. And 
she stretched out her arm over the wounded man, 
with the fingers pointing down the water, and reddened 
withal, as if she felt the hearts' greediness of the two 
mtn who were looking on her beauty. 

The big knight sighed, and said : '* Well, unless I 
am to kill him over again, there is nothing for it but 
our abiding with him for the next few hours at least 
To-morrow is a new day, and fair is the woodland- 
hall of summer-tide ; neither shall water fail us. But 
as to victual, I wot not save that we have none." 

The Lady laughed, and said to Ralph : ** Who 
knoweth what thou mayst find if thou go to the 
black horse and look into the saddle-bags which I saw 
upon him awhile agone ? For indeed we need some- 
what, if it were but to keep the life in the body of 
this wounded man." 

Ralph sprang up and turned to the horse, and 
found the saddle-bags on him, and took from them 
bread and flesh, and a flask of good wine, and brought 
them to the Lady, who laughed and said : '^ Thou 
art a good seeker and no ill nnder." Then she gave 
the wounded man to drink of the wine, so that he 
stirred somewhat, and the colour came into his face a 
little. Then she bade gather store of bracken for a 
bed for the Black Knight, and Ralph bestirred himself 
therein, but the Knight of the Sun sat looking at the 

147 



Lady as she busied herself with his friend, and gloom 
seemed gathering on him agiun. 

But when the bracken was enough, the Lady noade 
a bed deftly and speedily ; and between the three they 
l^d the wounded man thereon, who seemed coming to 
himself somewhat, and spake a few words, but those 
nothing to the point. Then the Lady took her gay 
embroidered cloak, which lay at the foot of the oak 
tree, and cast it over him and, as Ralph deemed, eyed 
him lo^ngly, and belike the Knight of the Sun 
thought in likewise, for he scowled upon her ; and 
for awhile but little was the joyance by the anci^it 
oak, unless it were with the L^dy. 



CHAPTER XXIV. SUPPER AND SLUMBER 
IN THE WOODLAND HALL. 

BUT when all was done to make the wounded 
knight as easy as might be, the Lady turned 
to the other twain, and said kindly: '^Now, 
lords, it were good to get to table, since here is 
wherewithal." And she looked on them both full 
kindly as she spake the words, but nowise want<Mily ; 
even as the lady of a fair house might do by 
honoured guests. So the hearts of both were cheered, 
and nothing loth they sat down by her on the grass 
and fell to meat. Yet was the Knight of the Sun a 
little moody for a while, but when he had eaten and 
drunken somewhat, he said : ^^ It were well if someone 
might come hereby, some hermit or holy man, to 
whom we might give the care of Walter : then nught 
we home to Sunway, and send folk with a litter to 
fetch him home softly when the due time were." 

" Yea," said the Lady, '* that might happen for- 
sooth, and perchance it will ; and if it were before 
nightfall it were better." 

148 



Ralph saw that as she spake she took hold of the 
two fingers of her left hand with her right forefinger, 
and let the thumb meet it^ so that it made a circle 
about them, and she spake something therewith in a 
low voice, but he heeded it little, save as he did all 
ways that her body moved. As for the Knight of the 
Sun, he was looking down on the grass as one pon- 
dering matters, and noted this not. But he said 
presently : ** What hast thou to say of Walter now ? 
Shall he live ? " ** Yea," she said, " maybe as long as 
either of you twain." The knight looked hard at 
Ralph, but said nothing, and Ralph heeded not his 
looks, for his eyes were busy devouring the Lady. 

So they abode a little, and the more part of what 
talk there was came from the Lady, and she was 
chiefly asking Ralph of his home in Upmeads, and 
his brethren and kindred, and he told her all openly, 
and hid naught, while her voice ravished his very 
soul from him, and it seemed strange to him, that 
such an one should hold him in talk concerning these 
simple matters and familiar haps, and look on him so 
kindly and simply. Ever and anon would she go and 
look to the welfare of the wounded man, and come 
back from him (for they sat a little way aloof), and 
tell them how he did. And still the Knight of the 
Sun took little heed, and once again gloom ^led 
down on him. 

Amidst all this the sun was set, and the long water 
lay beneath the heavens like a sheet of bright, fair- 
hued metal, and naught stirred it: till at last the 
Lady leaned forward to Ralph, and touched his 
shoulder (for he was sitting over against her, with his 
back to the water), and she said: "Sir Knight, Sir 
Knight, his wish is coming about, I believe verily." 
He turned his head to look over his shoulder, and, as 
if by chance-hap, his cheek met the outstretched hand 
she was pointing with : she drew it jiot away very 

149 



speedily, and as sweet to him was the touch of it 
as if his face had been brushed past by a summer 
lily. 

'* Nay, look ! something cometh," she cried ; and 
he looked and saw a little boat making down the 
water toward the end anigh them. Then the Knight 
of the Sun seemed to awake at her word, and he 
leapt to his feet, and stood looking at the new comer. 

It was but a little while ere tne boat touched the 
shore, and a man stepped out of it on to the grass 
and made it fast to the bank, and then stood and 
looked about him as if seeking something ; and lo, it 
was a holy man, a hermit in me habit of the Black- 
friars. 

Then the Knight of the Sun hastened down to the 
strand to meet him, and when Ralph was thus left 
alone with the Lady, though it were but for a little, 
his heart beat and he longed sore to touch her with 
his hand, but durst not, and did but hope that her 
hand would stray his way as it had e'en now. But 
she arose and stood a little way from him, and ^>ake 
to him sweetly of the fairness of the evening, and the 
wounded man, and the good hap of the friar's coming 
before nightfall ; and his heart was wrung sore with 
the love of her. 

So came the knight up from the strand, and the 
holy man with him, who greeted Ralph and the 
Lady and blessed them, and said: ^^Now, daughter, 
show me thy sick man ; for I am somewhat of a 
leech, and this thy baron would have me heal him, 
and I have a right good will thereto." 

So he went to the Black Knight, and when he had 
looked to his hurts, he turned to them and said: 
" Have ye perchance any meat in the wilderness ? " 
" Yea," quoth the Knight of the Sun ; *' there is 
enough for a day or more, and if we must needs abide 
here longer, I or this young man may well make shift 

150 



to slay some deer, great or little^ for our sustenance 
and the healing of my friend." 

** It is well," said the Friar ; ** my hermitage is no 
great way hence, in the thicket at the end of this 
water. But now is the fever on this knight, and we 
may not move him ere morning at soonest ; but to- 
morrow we may make a shift to bear him hence by 
boat : or, if not, then may I go and fetch from my cell 
bread and other meat, and mOk of my goats ; and thus 
shall we do weU till we may bring him to my cell, and 
then shall ye leave him there ; and afterwards I will 
lead him home to Simway where thou dwellest, baron, 
when he is well enough healed ; or, if he will not go 
thither, let him go his ways, and I myself will come to 
Simway and let thee wot of his welfare." 

The knight yeasaid all this, and thereafter the 
Friar and the Lady together tended the wounded 
knight, and gave him water to drink, and wine. And 
meanwhile Ralph and the Knight of the Sun lay down 
on the grass and watched the eve darkening, and 
Ralph marvelled at his happiness, and wondered what 
the morrow would bring rorth. 

But amidst his happy thoughts the Knight of the 
Sun spake to him and said : ^' Young knight, I have 
struck a bargain with her that thou shalt follow us 
home, if thou ^t : but to say sooth, I think when 
the bargain was struck I was minded when I had thee 
at Sunway to cast thee into my prison. But now 
I will do otherwise, and if thou must needs follow 
after thine own perdition, as I have, thou shalt do 
so freely; therefore take again thine armour and 
weapons, and do what thou wilt with them. But if 
thou wilt do after my rede, get thee away to-mor- 
row, or better, to-night, and desire our fellowship no 



more." 



Ralph heard him, and the heart within him was 
divided. It was in his mind to speak debonairely to 



the knight ; but again he felt as if he hated him, and 
the blythe words would not come, and he answered 
doKgedly: *'I will not leave my Lady since ahe 
bid(&th me go with her. If thou wilt then, make 
the most of it that thou art stronger than I, and a 
warrior more proven ; set me before thy sword, and 
fight with me and slay me/' 

Then rose the wrath to the knight's lips, and he 
brake forth : ^ Then is there one other thing for thee 
to do^ and that is that thou take thy sword, which I 
have just given back to thee, and thrust her through 
therewith. That were better for thee and for me, and 
for him who lieth yonder." 

Therewith he arose and strode up and down in the 
duskj and • Ralph wondered at him, yet hated him 
now not so much, since he deemed that the Lady 
would not love him, and that he was angered thereby. 
Yet about Ralph's heart there hung a certain fear of 
what should be. 

But presently the knight came and sat down by 
him again, and again fell to speech with him, and 
said: '^Thou knowest that I may not slay thee, 
and yet thou sayest, fight with me; is this well 
done?" "Is it ill done?" s^d Ralph, "I wot not 
why." 

The knight was silent awhile, and then he said : 
"With what words shall I beseech thee to depart 
while it is yet time ? It may well be that in days to 
come I shall be good to thee, and help thee." 

But Ralph said never a word. Then s^d the 
knight^ and sighed withal : " I now see this of thee^ 
that thou mayst not depart; well, so let it be !" and 
he sighed heavily again. Then Ralph strove vdth 
himself, and said courteously : ^^ Sir, I am sorry that 
I am a burden irksome to thee ; and that, why I know 
not, thou mayst not rid thyself of me by the strong 
hand, and that otherwise thou mayst not be rid of me. 

152 



What then is this woman to thee, that thou wouldst 
have me slay her, and yet art so fierce in thy love for 
her ? " The Knight of the Sun laughed wrathfiilly 
thereat, and was on the point of answering him, when 
up came those two from the wounded man, and the 
Friar said : '^ The knight shall do well ; but well it is 
for him that the Lady of Abundance was here for his 
helping ; for from her hands goeth all healing, as it 
was with the holy men of old time. May the saints 
keep her from all harm; for meek and holy indeed 
she is, as oft we have heard it" 

The Lady put her hand on his shoulder, as if to bid 
him silence^ and then set herself down on the grass 
beside the Knight of the Sun, and fell to talking 
sweetly and blithely to the three men. The Friar 
answered her with many words, and told her of the 
deer and fowl of the wood and the water that he was 
wont to see nigh to his hermitage ; for of such things 
she asked him^ and at last he said : '^ Good sooth, J^. 
should be shy to say in all places and before all men 
of all my dealings with God's creatures which live 
about me there. Wot ye what ? E'en now I had no 
thought of coming hitherward; but I was sittins 
amongst the trees pondering many things, when 1 
began to drowse, and drpwsing I heard the thorn- 
bushes speaking to me like men, and they bade me 
take my boat and go up the water to help a man who 
was in need; and that is how I came hither; bene- 
dicite." 

So he spake ; but the Knight of the Sun did but 
put in a word here and there, and that most often a 
sour and snappish word. As for Ralph, he also spake 
but little, and strayed somewhat in his answers ; for 
he could not but deem that she spake softlier and 
kinder to him than to the others ; and he was dreamy 
with love and desire, and scarce knew what he was 
saying. 



Thus they wore away some two hours, the Friar or 
the Lady turning away at whiles to heed the wounded 
man, who was now talking wUdly in his fever. 

But at last the night was grown as dark as it would 
be, since cloud and storm came not, for the moon had 
sunk down: so the Lady said: '^Now, lords, our 
candle hath gone out, and I for my part will to bed ; 
so let us each find a meet chamber in the woodland 
hall; and I will lie near to thee, &ther, and the 
wounded friend, lest I be needed to help thee in the 
night ; and thou. Baron of Sunway, lie thou betwixt 
me and the wood, to ward me from the wild deer and 
the wood-wights. But thou, Swain of Upmeads, wilt 
thou deem it hard to lie anear the horses, to watch 
them if they be scared by aught ? " 

" Yea," said the Knight of the Sun, " thou art 
Lady here forsooth ; even as men say of thee, that 
thou swayest man and beast in the wildwood. But 
this time at least it is not so ill-marshalled of thee : I 
myself would have shown folk to chamber here in 
likewise." 

Therewith he rose up, and walked to and fro for a 
little, and then went, and sat down on a root of the 
oak-tree, clasping his knees with his hands, but lay 
not down awhile. But the Lady made herself a bed 
of the bracken which was over from those that Ralph 
had gathered for the bed of the wounded Knight ; 
and tne Friar lay down on the grass nigh to her, and 
both were presently asleep. 

Then Ralph got up quietly ; and, shamefacedly for 
very love, passed close beside the sleeping woman as 
he went to his place by the horses, taking his weapons 
and wargear with him : and he said to himself as he 
laid him down, that it was good for him to be quite 
alone, that he might lie awake and think at his ease 
of all the loveliness and kindness of his Lady. How- 
beit, he was a young man, and a sturdy, used to lying 

154 



abroad in the fields or the woods, and it was his 
custom to sleep at once and sweetly when he lay 
down after the day's work had wearied him, and even 
so he did now, and was troubled by no dreams of 
what was past or to come. 



^5S 



BOOK II. THE ROAD UNTO TROUBLE. 



BOOK II. THE ROAD UNTO TROUBLE. 

CHAPTER I. RALPH MEETS WITH LOVE 
IN THE WILDERNESS. 

HE woke up while it was yet night, and knew 
that he had been awakened by a touch ; but; 
like a good hunter and warrior, he forebore to 
start up or cry out till sleep had so much run off him 
that he could tell somewhat of what was toward. So 
now he saw the Lady bending over him, and she siud 
in a kind and very low voice: "Rise up, young man, 
rise up, Ralph, and say no word, but come with me a 
little way into the wood ere dawn come, for I have a 
word for thee." 

So he stood up and was ready to go with her, his 
heart beating hard for joy and wonder. " Nay," she 
whispered, "take thy sword and war-gear lest ill 
befall: do on thine hauberk; I will be thy squire." 
And she held his war-coat out for him to do on. 
"Now," she said, stiU softly, "hide thy curly hair 
with the helm, gird thy sword to thee, and come 
without a word." 

Even so he did, and therewithal felt her hand take 
his (for it was dark as they stepped amidst the trees), 
and she led him into the Seventh Heaven, for he 
heard her voice, though it were but a whisper, as it 
were a caress and a laugh of joy in each word. 

She led him along swiftly, fumbling nought with 
the paths betwixt the pine-tree boles, where it was as 
dark as dark might be. Every minute he looked to 
hear her say a word of why she had brought him 

1 59 



thither, and that then she would depart from him ; so 
he prayed that the silence and the holding of his 
hand might last a long while — for he might think 
of naught save her — and long it lasted forsooth, and 
still she spake no word, though whiles a little sweet 
chuckle^ as of the garden warbler at his softest, came 
from her lips, and the ripple of her raiment as her 
swift feet drave it, sounded loud to his eager ears in 
the dark, windless wood. 

At last, and it was more than half-an-hour of their 
walking thus^ it grew lighter, and he could see the 
shape of her alongside of him ; and still she held Us 
hand and glided on swifter and swifter, as he thought; 
and soon he knew that outside the wood dawn was 
giving place to day, and even there, in the wood, it 
was scarce darker th^n twilight 

Yet a little flirther, and it grew lighter still, and he 
heard the throstles singing a little way off, and knew 
that they were on the edge of the pine-wood, and still 
her swift feet sped on tifi they came to a little grassy 
wood-lawn, mth nought anear it on the side away from 
the wood save maples and thorn-bushes : it was broad 
daylight there, though the sun had not yet arisen. 

There she let fall his hand and turned about to him 
and heed him flushed and eager, with her eyes exceed- 
ing bright and her lips half open and quivering. He 
stood beholding her, trembling, what for eagerness, 
what for fear of her words when he had told her of his 
desire. For he had now made up his mind to do no 
less. He put his helm from off his head and l^d it 
down on tl^ grass, and he noted therewith that she had 
come in her green gown only, and had left mantle and 
cote hardie behind. 

Now he stood up again and was just going to speak, 
when lo ! she put both her palms to her face, and her 
bosom heaved, and her shoulders, were shaken with 
sobs, and she burst out a weeping, so that the tears 

i6o 



ran through her fingers. Then he cast himself on the 
ground before her, and kissed her feet, and clasped her 
about the knees, and laid his cheek to her raiment, and 
fawned upon her, and cried out many an idle word of 
love, and still she wept a while and spake not. At last 
she reached her hand down to his face and fondled it, 
and he let his lips lie on the hand, and she suffered it 
a while, and then took him by the arm and raised 
him up and led him on swiftly as before ; and he 
knew not what to do or say, and durst by no means 
stay her, and could frame no word to ask her where- 
fore. 

So they sped across a waste not much beset with 
trees, he silent, she never wearying or slacking her pace 
or faltering as to the way, till they came into the thick 
wood again^ and ever when he would have spoken she 
hushed him, with *' Not yet ! Not yet ! " iJntil at last 
when the sun had been up for some three hours, she 
led him through a hazel copse, like a deep hedge, into a 
cleared grassy place where were great grey stones lying 
about, as if it had been the broken doom-ring of a 
forgotten folk. There she threw herself down on the 
grass and buried her face amidst the flowers, and was 
weeping and sobbing again and he bending over her, 
till she turned to him and drew him down to her and 
put her hands to his face, and laid her cheeks all wet 
with tears to his, and fell to kissing him lon^ and 
sweetly, so that in his turn he was like to weep for the 
very sweetness of love. 

Then at last she spake : " This is the first word, 
that now I have brought thee away from death ; and so 
sweet it is to me that I can scarce bear it." 

^ Oh, sweet to mcf/' he said, " for I have waited 
for thee many days.' **f And he fell to kissing and 
clipping her, as one .#ho might not be satisfied. At 
last she drew herself from him a little, and, turning on 
him a face smiling withlove, she said : ** Forbear it a 

^T^ ^' i6i M 



litde, till wc talk together." '^ Yea/' quoth he, '' but 
may I hold thine hand awhUe ?" " No harm in that," 
she said, laughing, and she gave him her hand and 
spake : 

^' I spake it that I have brought thee from death, and 
thou hast asked me no word concerning what and 
how/' " I wiU ask it now, then," said he, *^ since thou 
wilt have it so." She said: '' Dost thou think that he 
would have let thee live ? " 

*^ Who," s^d he, ** since thou lettest me live ? " 

^^ He, thy foeman, the Knight of the Sun," she s^d. 
" Why didst thou not flee from him before ? For he 
did not so much desire to slay thee, but that he would 
have had thee depart ; but if thou wert once at his 
house, he would thrust a sword through thee, or at the 
least cast thee into his prison and let thee lie there till 
thy youth be gone — or so it seemed to me," she sud, 
faltering as she looked on him. 

Said Ralph : ^^ How could I depart when thou wert 
with him ? Didst thou not see me there ? I was deem- 
ing that thou wouldst have me abide." 

She looked upon him with such tender love that he 
made as if he would cast himself upon her ; but she 
refrained him, and smiled and said : ^^ Ah, yes, I saw 
thee, and thought not that thou wouldst sunder thy- 
self from me ; therefore had I care of thee." And she 
touched his cheek with her other hand ; and he sighed 
and knit his brows somewhat, and said : ^^ But who is 
this man that he should slay me ? And why is he thy 
tyrant, that thou must flee from him ? " 

She laughed and said : '^ Fair creature, he is my 
husband." 

Then Ralph flushed red, and his visage clouded, and 
he opened his mouth to speak ; • but she stayed him and 
said : *^ Yet is he not so much my husband but that or 
ever we were bedded he must needs curse me and drive 
me away from his house." And she smiled, but her 

162 



face reddened so deeply that her grey eyes looked 
strange and light therein. 

But Ralph leapt up, and half drew his sword^ and 
cried out loud : " Would God I had slain him ! Where- 
fore could I not slay him ? " And he strode up and 
down the sward before her in his wrath. But she 
leaned forward to him and laughed and said : '* Yet, 
O champion, we will not go back to him, for he is 
stronger than thou, and hath vanquished thee. This 
is a desert place, but thou art loud, and maybe over 
loud. Come rest by me." 

So he came and sat down by her, and took her hand 
again and kissed the wrist thereof and fondled it and 
said : " Yea, but he desireth thee sorely ; that was easy 
to see. It was my ill-luck that I slew him not." 

She stroked his face again and said : ^^ Long were 
the tale if I told thee all After he had driven me out, 
and I had fled from him, he fell in with me again divers 
times, as was like to be ; for his brother is the Captain 
of the Dry Tree ; the tall man whom thou hast seen 
with me : and every time this baron hath come on me 
he has prayed my love, as one who would die despaired 
if I granted it not, but O my love with the bright 
sword " (and she kissed his cheek therewith, and fondled 
his hand with both her hands), '^ each time I sdd him 
nay, I said him nay." And again her fact burned with 
blushes. 

" And his brother," said Ralph, " the big captain 
that I have come across these four times, doth he desire 
thee also ? " She laughed and said : ^' But as others 
have, no more : he will not slay any man for my sake." 

Said Ralph : ^^ Didst thou wot that I was abiding thy 
coming at the Castle of Abundance ? " ** Yea, ' she 
said, ^' have I not told thee that I bade Roger lead thee 
thither ? " Then she «ud softly : *' That was after that 
first time we met ; after I had ridden away on the 
horse of that butcher whom thou slayedst." 

163 



** But why earnest thou so late ? " said he ; ^* Wouldst 
thou have come if I had abided there yet ? '' She s^d: 
" What else did I desire but to be with thee ? But I 
set out alone looking not for any peril, since our riders 
had gone to the north against them of the Burg : but 
as I drew near to the Water of the Oak^ I fell in with 
my husband and that other man ; and this time all my 
naysays were of no a\rail, and whatsoever I might say 
he constrained me to go with them ; but straightway 
they fell out together, and fought, even as thou sawest." 
And she look^ at him sweetly, and as frankly as if he 
had been naught but her dearest brother. 

But he said : ^^ It was concerning thee that they 
fought : hast thou known the Black Kmght for long ?" 

*^ Yea," she said, ** I may not hide that he hath loved 
me : but he hath also betrayed me. It was through 
him that the Knight of the Sun drave me from him. 
Hearken, for this concemeth thee : he made a tale of 
me of true and false mingled, that I was a wise-wife and 
an enchantress, and my lord trowed in him, so that 
I was put to shame before all the house, and driven 
forth wrung with anguish, barefoot and bleeding." 

He looked and saw pain and grief in her face, as it 
had been the shadow of that past time, and the fierce- 
ness of love in him so changed his face, thaf she arose 
and drew a little way from him, and stood there gazing 
at him. But he also rose and knelt before her, and 
reached up for her hands and took them in his and said : 
** Tell me truly, and beguile me not ; for I am a young 
man, and without guile,^ and I love thee, and would 
have thee for my speech-friend, what woman soever 
may be in the world. Whatever thou hast been, what 
art thou now ? Art thou good or evil ? Wilt thou 
bless me or ban me ? For it is the truth that I have 
heard tales and tales of thee : many were good, though 
it maybe strange ; but some, they seemed to warn me 
of evil in thee. O look at me, and see if I love thee 

164 



or not ! and I may not help it. Say once for all, shall 
that be for my ruin or my bliss ? If thou hast been evil, 
then be good this one time and tell me/' 

She neither reddened now, nor paled at his words, 
but her eyes filled with tears, and ran over, and she 
looked down on him as a woman looks on a man that 
she loves from the heart's root, and she said : " O my 
lord and love, may it be that thou shalt find me no 
worse to thee than the best of all those tales. For- 
sooth how shall I tell thee of myself, when, whatever 
I say, thou shalt believe every word I tell thee ? But 
O my heart, how shouldest thou, so sweet and fair 
and good, be taken with the love of an evil thing ? 
At the least I will say this, that whatsoever I have 
been, I am good to thee — I am good to thee, and will 
be true to thee." 

He drew her down to him as he knelt there, and 
took his arms about her, and though she yet shrank 
from him a little and the eager flame of his love, he 
might not be gainsayed, and she gave herself to him 
and let her body glide into his arms, and loved him no 
less than he loved her. And there between them in 
the wilderness was all the joy of love that might be. 

CHAPTER II. THEY BREAK THEIR FAST 
IN THE WILDWOOD. 

NOW when it was hard on noon, and they had 
lain long in that grassy place, Ralph rose up 
and stood upon his feet, and made as one 
listening. But the Lady looked on him and said: 
^* It is naught save a hart and his hind running in the 
wood ; yet may happen we were best on the ro^, for 
it is yet long." "Yea," said Ralph, "and it may 
be that my master will gather folk and pursue us." 
" Nay, nay," she said, ** that were to wrong him, to 
deem that he would gather folk to follow one man ; 

165 



if he come, he will be by himself alone. When he 
found us gone he doubtless cast himself on Silverfax^ 
my horse, in trust of the beast following after my 
feet." 

" Well^" said Ralph, " and if he come alone, there 
is yet a sword betwixt him and thee." 

She was standing up by him now with her hand on 
his shoulder, and she laid her cheek to his, and said 
laughing: ^'Hear now the darling, the champion! 
how he trusteth well in his heart and his right hand. 
But nay, I have cared for thee well. Hearken, if 
thou wilt not take it amiss that I tell thee all I do, 
good or evil. I said a word in the ear of Silverfax 
or ever I departed, and now the good beast knows 
. my mind, and will lead the fierce lord a little astray, 
but not too much, lest he follow us with his eager 
heart and be led by his own keen woodcraft. Indeed, 
I left the horse behind to that end, else hadst thou 
ridden the woodland ways with me, instead of my 
wearying thee by our going afoot ; and thou with thy 
weapons and wargear. ' 

He looked upon her tenderly, and said smiling: 
**And thou, my dear, art thou not a little wearied 
by what should weary a knight and one bred afield ? " 
** Nay," she said, ** seest thou not how I walk lightly 
clad, whereas I have left behind my mantle and cote- 
hardie?" Thereat she gathered up her gown into 
her girdle ready for the way, and smiled as she saw 
his eyes embrace the loveliness of her feet ; and she 
spake as she moved them daintily on the flowery 
grass: ^^ Sooth to say. Knight, I am no weakling 
dame, who cannot move her limbs save in the dance, 
or to hdtk. the white palfrey and ride the meadows, 
goshamc on wrist ; I am both well-knit and light-foot 
as the Wood- wife and Goddess of yore agone. Many 
a foil hath gone to that, whereof I may tell thee 
presently; but now we were best on our way. Yet 

i66 



before we go, I will at least tell thee this, that in my 
knowing of these woods, there is no sorcery at all ; 
for in the woods, though not in these woods, was I 
bred ; and here also I am at home, as I may say." 

Hand in hand then they went lightly through the 
hazel copse, and soon was the wood thick about them, 
but, as before, the Lady led unfalteringly through the 
thicket paths. Now Ralph spake and said: ''It is 
good that thou lead me whither thou wilt; but this I 
may say, that it is clear to me that we are not on the 
way to the Castle of Abundance." " Even so," s^d 
she; ''indeed had I come to thee there, as I was 
minded, I should presently have brought thee on the 
way which we are wending now, or one nigh to it ; 
and that is that which leadeth to Hampton under 
Scaur, and the Fellowship of Champions who dwell 
on the rock," 

Said Ralph : " It is well ; yet will I tell thee the 
truth, that a little sojourn in that fair house had liked 
me better. Fain had I been to see thee sitting in 
thine ivory chair in thy chamber of dais with the 
walls hung round with thee woven in pictures — wilt 
thou not tell me in words the story of those pictures.^ 
and also concerning the book which I read, which was 
also of thee ? " 

" Ah," she said, " thou hast read in the book — 
well, I will tell thee the story very soon, and that the 
more since there are matters written wrong in the 
book." Therewith she hurried him on, and her feet 
seemed never tired, though now, to say sooth, he 
began to go somewhat heavily. 

Then she stayed him, and laughed sweetly in his 
face, and said: "It is a long while now. since the 
beginning of the June day, and meseems I kn&w thy 
lack, and the slaking of it lieth somewhat nearer than 
Hampton under Scaur, which we shall not reach these 
two days if we go afoot all the way." ^ 

167 



" My lack?'* said he; "I lack nought now, that I 
may not have when I will." And he puj his arms 
about her shoulders and strained her to his bosom. 
But she strove with him, and freed herself and laughed 
outright, and said: ^' Thou art a bold man, and rash, 
my knight, even unto me. Yet must I see to it that 
thou die not of hunger." He said merrily: '* Yea, by 
St Nicholas, true it is: a while ago I felt no hunger, 
and had forgotten that men eat; for I was troubled 
with much longing, and in doubt concerning n^y life ; 
but now am I free and happy, and hungry there- 
withal.'* 

*' Look," she said, pointing up to the heavens, " it 
is now past two hours after noon ; that is nigh two 
hours since we left the lawn amic^t the hazels, and 
thou longest to eat, as is but right, so lovely as thou 
art and young ; and I withal long to tell thee some- 
thing of that whereof thou hast asked me ; and lastly, 
it is the hottest of the day, yea, so hot, that even 
Diana, the Wood-wife of yore agone, might have 
fainted somewhat, if she had been going afoot as we 
twdn have been, and little is the risk of our resting 
awhile. And hereby is a place where rest is good as 
regards the place, whatever the resters may be ; it is 
a little aside the straightest way, but meseems we may 
borrow an hour or so of our journey, and hope to pay 
it back ere nightfall. Come, champion ! " 

Therewith she led north through a thicket of 
mingled trees till Ralph heard water rxmning, and 
anon they came to a little space about a brook, grassy 
and clear of trees save a few big thorn-bushes, with a 
green ridge or bank on the other side. There she 
stayed him and said : *' Do off thy war-gear, knight. 
There is naught to fear here, less than there was 
amidst the hazels." So did he, and she kneeled 
down and drank of the clear water, and washed her 
face and hands therein, and then came and kissed him 

i68 



and said: ** Lovely imp of Upmeads, I have some 
bread of last night's meal in my scrip here, and under 
the bank 1 shall find some woodland meat withal; 
abide a little and the tale and the food shall come 
back to thee together." Therewith she^ stepped 
lightly into the stream, and stood therein a minute to 
let her naked feet feel the cold ripple (for she had 
stripped off her foot-gear as she first came to the 
water), and then went hither and thither gathering 
strawberries about the bank, while he watched her, 
blessing her, till he well nigh wept at the thought of 
his happiness. 

Back she came in a little while with good store of 
strawberries in thejap of her gown, and they sat down 
on the green lip of the brook, and she drew the bread 
from her scrip and they ate together, and she made 
him drink from the hollow of her hands, and kissed 
him and wept over him for joy, and the eagerness of her 
love. So at last she sat down quietly beside him, and 
fell to speaking to him, as a tale is told in the ingle 
nook on an even of Yide-tide. 



CHAPTER III. THE LADY TELLETH 
RALPH OF THE PAST DAYS OF HER UFE. 

" 'T^yOW shalt thou hear of me somewhat more 
f^J than the arras and the book could tell thee ; 
-^ ^ and yet not all, for time would fail us ther- 
for — and moreover my heart woidd fail me. I can- 
not tell where I was born nor of what lineage, nor of 
who were my father and mother; for this I have 
known not of myself, nor has any told me. But when 
I first remember anything, I was playing about a 
garden, wherein was a little house built of timber and 
thatched with reed, and the great trees of the forest 
were all about the garden save for a little croft which 
was grown over with high crass and another somewhat 

109 



bigger, wherein were goats. There ^was a woman at the 
door of the house and she spinning, yet clad in glittering 
raiment, and with jewels on her neck and fingers ; this 
was the first thing that I remember, but all as it were 
a matter of every day, and use and wont, as it goes 
with the memories of children. Of such matters I 
will not tell thee at large, for thou knowest how it will 
be. Now the woman, who as I came to know was 
neither old nor young in those days, but of middle age, 
I called mother ; but now I know that she was not my 
mother. She was hard and stem with me, but never 
beat me in those days^ save to make m^ do what I 
would not have done imbeaten ; and as to meat I ate 
and drank what I could get, as she did, and indeed was 
well-fed with simple meats as thou mayest suppose 
from the aspect of me to-day. But as she was not 
fierce but rather sour to me in her daily wont in my 
youngest days so also she was never tender^ or ever 
kissed me or caressed me, for as little as I was. And 
I loved her naught, nor did it ever come into my mind 
that I should love her, though I loved a white goat of 
ours and deemed it dear and lovely ; and afterwards 
other things also that came to me from time to time, as 
a squirrel that I saved from a weasel, and a jackdaw 
that fell from a tall ash-tree nigh our house before he 
had learned how to fly, and a house-mouse that would 
run up and down my hand and arm, and other such- 
like things ; and shortly I may say that the wild things, . 
even to the conies and fawns loved me, and had but 
little fear of me, and made me happy, and I loved them. 
" Further, as I grew up, the woman set me to do such 
work as I had strength for as needs was ; for there was 
no man dwelt anigh us and seldom did I ever see man 
or woman there, and held no converse with any, save 
as I shall tell thee presently : though now and again a 
man or a woman passed by ; what they were I knew 
not, nor their whence and whither, but by seeing them 

170 



1^ 






I came to know that there were other folk in the world 
besides us two. Nought else I knew save how to spin, 
and to tend our goats and milk them, and to set snares 
for birds and small deer : though when I had caught 
them, it irked me sore to kill them, and I had let them go 
again had I not feared the carline. Every day early I was 
put forth from the house and garth, and forbidden to 
go back thither till dusk. While the days were long 
and the grass was growing, I had to lead our goats to 
pasture in the wood-lawns, and must take with me rock 
and spindle, and spin so much of flax or hair as the 
woman gave jne, or be beaten. But when the winter 
came and the snow was on the ground, then that watch- 
ing and snaring of wild things was my business. 

'' At last one day of late summer when I, now of some 
fifteen sununers, was pasturing the goats not far from 
the house, the sky darkened, and there came up so 
great a storm of thunder and lightning, and huge drift 
of rain, that I was afraid, and being so near to the 
house, I hastened thither, driving the goats, and when 
I had tethered them in the shed of the croft, I crept 
trembling up to the house, and when I was at the door, 
heard the clack of the loom in the weaving-chamber, 
and deemed that the woman was weaving there, but 
when I looked, behold there was no one on the bench, 
though the shuttle was flying from side to side, and 
the shed opening and changing, and the sley coming 
home in due order. Therewithal I heard a soimd as 
of one singing a song in a low voice, but the words I 
could not understand : then terror seized on my heart, 
but I stepped over the threshold, and as the door of 
the chamber was open, I looked aside and saw therein 
the woman sitting stark naked on the floor with a great 
open book before her, and it was from her mouth that 
the song was coming : grim she looked, and awftil, for 
she was a big woman, black-haired and stern of aspect 
in her daily wont, speaking to me as few words as 

171 • 



might be, and those harsh enough, yea harsher than 
when I was but little. I stood for one moment 
afraid beyond measure, though the woman did not 
look at me, and I hoped she had not seen me ; then 
I ran back into the storm, though it was now wilder 
than ever, and ran and hid myself in the thicket of 
the wood, half-dead with fear, and wondering what 
would become of me. But finding that no one followed 
after me, I grew calmer^ and the storm also drew off, 
and the sun shone out a little before his setting : so I 
sat and spun, with fear in my hearty till I had finished 
my tale of thread, and when dusk came, stole back 
again to the house, though my legs would scarce bear 
me over the threshold into the chamber. 

^ There sat the woman in her rich attire no otherwise 
than her wont, nor did she say aught to me ; but looked 
at the yam that I had spun, to see that I had done my 
task, and nodded sternly to me as her wont was, and I 
went to bed amongst my goats as I was used to do, but 
slept not till towards morning, and then images of 
dreadful things, and of miseries that I may not tell thee 
of, mingled with my sleep for long. 

'^ So I awoke and ate my meat and drank of the goats' 
milk with a heavy heart, and then went into the house ; 
and when I came into the chamber the woman looked 
at me, and contrary to her wont spoke to me, and I 
shook with terror at her voice ; though she said naught 
but this : * Go fetch thy white goat and come back 
to me therewith.' I did so, and followed after her, sick 
with fear ; and she led me through the wood into a 
lawn which I knew well, round which v^as a wall, as it 
were, of great yew trees, and amidst, a table of stone, 
made of four uprights and a great stone plank on the 
top of them ; and this was the only thing in all the 
wood wherein I was used to wander which was of man's 
handiwork, save and except our house, and the sheds 
and fences about it 

172 



*^ The woman stayed and leaned ag^nst this stone- 
work and said to me : 'Go about now and gather dry 
sticks for a fire/ I durst do naught else, and said to 
myself that I should be whipped if I were tardy, though^ 
forsooth, I thought she was going to kill me ; and I 
brought her a bundle, and she said, * Fetch more/ And 
when I had brought her seven bundles, she said : ' It 
is enough : stand over ag^nst me and hearken/ So 
I stood there quaking ; for my fear, which had some- 
what abated while I went to and fro after the wood, 
now came back upon me tenfold. 

'^ She said : ' It were thy due that I should slay thee 
here and now, as thou slayest the partridges which 
thou takest in thy springes: but for certain causes I 
will not slay thee. Again, it were no more than thy 
earnings were I to torment thee till thou shouldst 
cry* out for death to deliver thee from the anguish; 
and if thou wert a woman grown, even so would I 
deal with thee. But thou art yet but a child, there- 
fore I will keep thee to see what shall befall betwixt 
us. Yet must I do somewhat to grieve thee, and 
moreover something must be slain and offered up 
here on this altar, lest all come to naught, both thou 
and I, and that which we have to do. Hold thy 
white goat now, which thou lovest more than aught 
else, that I may redden thee and me and this altar 
with the blood thereof.' 

*' I durst do naught but obey her, and I held the 
poor beast, that licked my hands and bleated for love 
of me: and now since my terror and the fear of death 
was lessened at her words, I wept sore for my dear 
friend. 

" But the woman drew a strong sharp knife from 
her girdle and cut the beast's throat, and dipped her 
fingers in the blood and reddened both herself and me 
on the breast, and thi hands, and the feet ; and then 
she turned to the altar and smote blood upon the up- 

n3 



rights, and the face of the stone plank. Then she 
bade me help her, and we laid the seven faggots on 
the altar, and laid the carcase of the goat upon them: 
and she made fire, but I saw not how, and set it to 
the wood, and when it began to blaze she stood 
before it with her arms outspread, and sang loud and 
hoarse to a strange tune ; and though I knew not the 
words of her song» it filled me with dread, so that I 
cast myself down on the groimd and hid my face in 
the grass. 

'' So she went on till the beast was all burned up and 
the fire become naught but red embers, and then she 
ceased her song and sank down upon the grass, and 
laid her head tmck and so fell asleep; but I durst not 
move from the place, but cowered in the grass there, 
I know not how long, till she arose and came to me, 
and smote me with her foot and cried: ^Rise up, 
fool ! what harm hast thou ? Go milk thy goats and 
lead them to pasture/ And therewith she strode 
away home, not heeding me. 

'^ As for me, I arose and dealt with my goats as she 
bade me; and presently I was glad that I had not 
been slain, yet thenceforth was the joy of my life that 
I had had amongst my goats marred with fear, and 
the sounds of the woodland came to me mingled with 
terror; and I was sore afraid when I entered the 
house in the morning and the evening, and when I 
looked on the face ofthe woman ; though she was no 
harder to me than heretofore, but maybe somewhat 
softer. 

^ So wore the autumn, and winter came, and I fared 
as I was wont, setting springes for fowl and small-deer. 
And for all the roughness of the season, at that time 
it pleased me better than the leafy days, because I 
had less memory then of the sharpness of my fear on 
that day of the altar. Now one day as I went under 
the snow-laden trees, I saw something bright and big 

J 74 



lying on the ground, and drawing nearer I saw that 
it was some child of man : so I stopped and cried out^ 

* Awake and arise, lest death come on thee in this 
bitter cold/ But it stirred not; so I plucked up 
heart and came up to it, and lo ! a woman clad in fair 
raiment of scarlet and fur, and I knelt down by her to 
see if I might help her ; but when I touched her I 
found her cold and stiff, and dead, though she had 
not been dead long, for no snow had fallen on her. It 
still wanted more than an hour of twilight, and I by 
no means durst go home till nightfall; so I sat on 
there and watched her, and put the hood from her 
face and the gloves from her hands, and I deemed 
her a goodly and lovely thing, and was sorry that she 
was not alive, and I wept for her, and for myself also, 
that I had lost her fellowship. So when I came back 
to the house at dark with the venison, I knew not 
whether to tell my mistress and tyrant concerning 
this matter ; but she looked on me and said at once : 
' Wert thou going to tell me of something that thou 
hast seen ?' So I told her all, even as it was, and she 
said to me: * Hast thou taken aught from the corpse?' 
'Nay,' said I. *Then must I hasten,' she said, 

* and be before the wolves.' Therewith she took a 
brand from the fire, and bade me bear one also and 
lead her: so did I easily enough, for the moon was up, 
and what with moon and snow, it was well nigh as 
bright as the day. So when we came to the dead 
woman, my mistress kneeled down by her and undid 
the collar of her cloak, which I had not touched, and 
took something from her neck swiftly, and yet I, who 
was holding the torch, saw that it was a necklace of 
blue stones and green, with gold between — Yea, 
dear Champion, like unto thine as one peascod is to 
another," quoth she. 

And therewith the distressfulness of her face which 
had worn Ralph's heart while she had been telling her 

^75 



tale changed, and she came, as it were, into her new 
life and the love of him again, and she kissed him and 
Md her cheek to his and he kissed her mouth. And 
then she fetched a sigh, and began with her story 
again. 

^' My mistress took the necklace and put it in her 
pouch, and said as to herself : ' Here, then, is another 
seeker who hath not found, unless one should dig a 
pit for her here when the thaw comes, and call it the 
Well at the World's End : belike it will be for her as 
helpful as the real one/ Then she turned to me 
and said : * Do thou with the rest what thou wilt,' 
and therewith she went back hastily to the house. 
But as for me, I went back also, and found a pick and 
a mattock in the goat-house, and came back in the 
moonlight and scraped the snow away, and dug a pit, 
and buried the poor damsel there with all her gear. 

" Wore the winter thence with naught that I need 
tell of, only I thought much of the words that my 
mistress had spoken. Spring came and went, and 
suRuner also, well nigh tidingless. But one day as I 
drave the goats from our house there came from the 
wood four men, a-horseback and weaponed, but so 
covered with their armour that I might see little of 
their faces. They rode past me to our house, and 
spake not to me, though they looked hard at me; 
but as they went past I heard one say : * If she mieht 
but be our guide to the Well at the World's End ! ' 
I durst not tarry to speak with them, but as I looked 
over my shoulder I saw them talking to my mistress 
in the door ; but meseemed she was clad but in poor 
homespun cloth instead of her rich apparel, and I am 
far-sighted and clear-sighted. After this the autumn 
and winter that followed it passed away tidingless. 



176 



CHAPTER IV. THE LADY TELLS OF HER 
DEUVERANCE. 

'* "T^^TOW I had outgrown my old fear, and not 
j^y much befell to quicken it : and ever I was as 
-^ ^ much out of the house as I could be. But 
about this time my mistress, from being kinder to me 
than before, began to grow harder, and ofttimes used 
me cruelly : but of her deeds to me, my friend, thou 
shalt ask me no more than I tell thee. On a day of 
May-tide I fared abroad with my goats, and went far 
with them, further from the house than I had been as 
yet. The day was the fairest of the year, and I 
rejoiced in it, and felt as if some exceeding great good 
were about to befall me; and the burden of fears 
seemed to have fallen from me. So I went till I came 
to a little flowery dell, beset with blossoming white- 
thorns and with a fair stream running through it ; a 
place somewhat like to this, save that the stream 
there was bigger. And the sun was hot about noon- 
tide, so I did off my raiment, which was rough and 
poor, and more meet for winter than May-tide, and I 
entered a pool of the clear water, and bathed me and 
sported therein, smelling the sweet scent of the white- 
thorns and hearkening to the song of the many birds ; 
and when I came forth from the water, the air was so 
soft and sweet to me, and the flowery grass so kind 
to my feet, and the May-blooms fell upon my 
shoulders, that I was loth to do on my rough raiment 
hastily, and withal I looked to see no child of man in 
that wilderness: so I sported myself there a long 
while, and milked a goat and drank of the milk, and 
crowned myself with white-thorn and hare-bells ; and 
held the blossoms in my hand, and felt that I also had 
some might in me, and that I should not be a thrall 
of that sorceress for ever. And that day, my friend, 

177 N 



belike was the spring-tide of the life and the love that 
thou holdest in thy kind arms. 

*' But as I abode thus in that fair place, and had just 
taken my rock and spindle in hand that I might go on 
with my task and give as little occasion as I might for 
my mistress to chastise me, I looked up and saw a 
child of man coming down the side of the little dale 
towards me, so I sprang up, and ran to my raiment and 
cast them on me hastily, for I was ashamed ; and when 
I saw that it was a woman, I thought at first that it was 
my mistress coming to seek me ; and I thought within 
myself that if she smote me I would bear it no more, 
but let it be seen which of the twain was the mightier. 
But I looked again and saw that it was not she but a 
woman smaller and olden So I stood where I was and 
abode her coming, smiling and unafraid, and half-clad. 

^' She drew near and I saw that it was an old woman 
grey haired, uncomely of r^ment, but with shining 
bright eyes in her wrinkled face. And she made an 
obeisance to me and said : ^ I was passing through this 
lonely wilderness and I looked down into the little valley 
and saw these goats there and the lovely lady lying naked 
amongst them, and I said I am too old to be afraid of 
aught ; for if she be a goddess come back ag^n from yore 
agone, she can but make an end of a poor old carline, 
a gangrel body, who hath no joy of her life now. And 
if she be of the daughters or men, she will belike me- 
think her of her mother, and be kind to me for her 
sake, and give me a piece of bread and a draught of 
her goats' milk.* 

" I spake hastily, for I was ashamed of her words, 
though I only half understood them : ' I hear thee and 
deem that thou mockest me : I have never known a 
mother ; I am but a poor thrall, a goatherd dwelling 
with a mistress in a nook of this wildwood : I have 
never a piece of bread ; but as to the goats' milk, that 
thou shalt have at once.' So I called one of my goats 

178 



to me, for I knew them all, and milked her into a wooden 
bowl that I carried slung about me, and gave the old 
woman to drink : and she kissed my hand and drank 
and spake again, but no longer in a whining voice, like 
a beggar bidding alms in the street, but frank and 
free. 

*" Damsel,' she said, ' now I see that thy soul goes with 
thy body, and that thou art kind and proud at once. 
And whatever thou art, it is no mock to say of thee, 
that thou art as fair as the fairest ; and I think that this 
will follow thee, that henceforth no man who seeth 
thee once will forget thee ever, or cease to long for 
thee : of a surety this is thy wei'rd. Now I see that thou 
knowest no more of the world and its ways than one 
of the hinds that run in these woods. So if thou wilt, 
I will sit down by thee and tell thee much that shall 
avail thee ; and thou in thy turn shalt tell me all the 
tale concerning thy dwelling and thy service, and the 
like.' 

'^ I said, I may not, I durst not ; I serve a mighty 
mistress, and she would slay me if she knew that I had 
spoken to thee ; and woe's me ! I fear that even now 
she will not fail to know it. Depart in peace.' 

" ' Nay,' she said, * thou needest not tell me, for I have 
an inkling of her and her ways : but I will give thee 
wisdom, and not sell it thee at a price. Sit down then, 
fair child, on this flowery grass, and I will sit beside thee 
and tell thee of many things worth thine heeding.' So 
there we sat awhile, and in good sooth she told me much 
of the world which I had not yet seen, of its fairness 
and its foulness ; of life and death, and desire and dis- 
appointment, and despair ; so that when she had done, 
if I were wiser than erst, I was perchance little more 
joyous ; and yet I said to myself that come what would 
I would be a part of all that. 

^^ But at last she said : ^ Lo the day is waning, and 
thou hast two things to do ; either to go home to thy 

179 



mistress at once, or flee away from her by the way that 
I shall show thee ; and if thou wilt be ruled by me, and 
canst bear thy thralldom yet a little while thou wilt not 
flee at once, but abide till thou hast seen me again. 
And since it is here that thou hast met me, here mayst 
thou meet me again ; for the days are long now, and 
thou mayst easily win thy way hither before noon on 
any day/ 

'' So I tied my goatskin shoes to my feet, and drave my 
goats together, and we went up together out of the 
dale, and were in the wide-spreading plain of the waste; 
and the carline said : ' Dost thou know the quarters of 
the heaven by the sun ? * ^ Yea,' said I. * Then,' quoth 
she, ' whenso thou desirest to depart and come into the 
world of folk that I have told thee of, set thy tace a 
little north of west, and thou shalt fall in with some- 
thing or somebody before long ; but be speedy on that 
day as thou art light-footed, and make all the way thou 
canst before thy mistress comes to know of thy de- 
parture ; for not lightly will any one let loose such a 
thrall as thou.' 

** I thanked her, and she went her ways over the waste, 
I wotted not whither^ and I drave my goats home as 
speedily as I might ; the mistress meddled not with me 
by word or deed, though I was short of my due tale 
of yarn. The nejct day I longed sore to go to the dale 
and meet the carline but durst not, and the next day I 
fared in likeways; but the third day I longed so to go, 
that my feet must needs take me there, whatsoever 
might befall. And when I had been in the dale a little, 
thither came the carline, and sat down by me and fell 
to teaching me wisdom, and showed me letters and told 
me what they were, and I learned like a little lad in 
the chorister's school. 

'* Thereafter I mastered my fear of my mistress and 
went to that dale day by day, and learned of the carline ; 
though at whiles I wondered when my mistress would 

1 80 



let loose her fury upon me ; for I called to mind the 
threat she had made to me on the day when she offered 
up my white goat. And I made up my mind to this, 
that if she fell upon me with deadly intent I would do 
my best to slay her before she should slay me. But 
so it was, that now again she held her hand from my 
body, and scarce cast a word at me ever, but gloomed 
at me, and fared as if hatred of me had grown great 
in her heart 

" So the days went by, and my feet had worn a path 
through the wilderness to the Dale of Lore, and May 
had melted into June, and the latter days of June were 
come. And on Midsummer Day I went my ways to 
the dale according to my wont, when, as I was 
driving on iny goats hastily I saw a bright thing coming 
over the heath toward me, and I went on my way to 
meet it, for I had no fear now, except what fear of 
my mistress lingered in my heart ; nay, I looked that 
everything I saw of new should add some joy to my 
heart. So presendy I saw that it was a weaponed man 
riding a white horse, and anon he had come up to me 
and drawn rein before me. I wondered exceedingly 
at beholding him and the heart leaped within me at his 
beauty ; for though the carline had told me of the 
loveliness of the sons of men, that was but words and 
I knew not what they meant ; and the others that I 
had seen were not young men or goodly, and those 
last, as I told thee, I could scarce see their faces. 

^' And this one was even fairer than the dead woman 
that I had buried, whose face was worn with toil and 
trouble, as now I called to mind. He was clad in 
bright shining armour with a gay surcoat of green, 
embroidered with flowers over it ; he had a light sallet 
on his head, and the yellow locks of his hair flowed 
down from under, and fell on his shoulders : his face 
was as beardless as thine, dear friend, but not clear 
brown like to thine, but white and red like a blossom.' 

i8i 



Ralph spake and said: '^ Belike it was a woman;" 
and his voice sounded loud in the quiet place. She 
smiled on him and kissed his cheek, and said : ^' Nay, 
nay, dear Champion, it is not so. God rest his soul ! 
many a year he has been dead." 

Said Ralph : " Many a year ! what meanest thou ?" 
" Ah ! " she said, " fear not ! as I am now, so shall I 
be for thee many a year. Was not thy fear that I 
should vanish away or change into something un- 
sightly and gruesome? Fear not, I say; am I not a 
woman, and thine own?" And again she flushed 
bright red, and her grey eyes lightened, and she 
looked at him all confused and shamefaced. 

He took her face between his hands and Idssed her 
over and over ; then he let her go, and said: " I have 
no fear : go on with thy tale, for the words thereof 
are as thy kisses to me, and the embracing of thine 
hands and thy body: tell on, I pray thee." She took 
his hand in hers and spake, telling her tale as before. 

" Friend, well-beloved for ever ! This fair young 
knight looked on me, and as he looked, his face 
flushed as red as mine did even now. And I tell 
thee that my heart danced with joy as I looked on 
him, and he spake not for a little while, and then he 
said : ^ Fair maiden, canst thou tell me of any who 
will tell me a word of the way to the Well at the 
World's End?' I said to him, *Nay, I have heard 
the word once and no more, I know not the way : 
and I am sorry that I cannot do for thee that which 
thou wouldest.' And then I spake again, and told 
him that he should by no means stop at our house, 
and I told him what it was like, so that he might give 
it the go by. I said, ' Even if thou hast to turn back 
again, and fsiW to find the thing thou seekest, yet I 
beseech thee ride not into that trap.' 

^ He sat still on his saddle a while, staring at me 
and I at him ; and then he thanked me, but with so 

182 



bad a grace, that I wondered of him if he were 
angry ; and then he shook his rein, and rode off 
briskly, and I looked after him a while, and then 
went on my way ; but I had gone but a short while, 
when I heard horse-hoofs behind me, and I turned 
and looked, and lo ! it was the knight coming back 
again. So I stayed and abided him; and when he 
came up to me, he leapt from his horse and stood 
before me and said: ^I must needs see thee once 
again/ 

" I stood and trembled before him, and longed to 
touch him. And again he spake, breathlessly, as one 
who has been running : ' I must depart, for I have a 
thing to do that I must do; but I long sorely to 
touch thee, and kiss thee; yet unless thou freely 
wiliest it, I will refrain me/ Then I looked at him 
and said, * I will it freely/ Then he came close up to 
me, and put his hand on my shoulder and kissed my 
cheek ; but I kissed his lips, and then he took me in 
his arms, and kissed me and embraced me ; and there 
in that place, and in a little while, we loved each other 
sorely. 

" But in a while he said to me : * I must depart, for 
I am as one whom the Avenger of Blood followeth ; 
and now I will give thee this, not so much as a gift, 
but as a token that we have met in the wilderness, 
thou and L' Therewith he put his hand to his neck, 
and took from it this necklace which thou seest here, 
and I saw that it was like that which my mispress took 
from the neck of the dead woman. And no less is it 
like to the one that thou wearest, Ralph. 

'* I took it in my hand and wept that I might not 
help him. And he said : ^ It is little likely that we 
shall meet again ; but by the token of this collar thou 
mayest wot that I ever long for thee till I die : for 
though I am a king's son, this is the dearest of my 
possessions.' I said : ^ Thou art young, and 1 am 

183 



young; mayhappen we shall meet again: but thou 
shalt know that I am but a thrall, a goatherd/ For 
I knew by what the old woman told me of somewhat 
of the mightiness of the kings of the world. * Yea/ 
he said, and smiled most sweetly, ' that is easy to be 
seen : yet if I live, as I think not to do, thou shalt sit 
where great men shall kneel to thee ; not as I kneel 
now for love, and that I may kiss thy knees and thy 
feet, but because they needs must worship thee/ 

** Therewith he arose to his feet and leapt on his 
horse, and rode his ways speedily : and I went upon 
my way with my goats, and came down into the Dale 
of Lore, and found the old woman abiding me ; and 
she came to me, and took me by the hands, and 
touched the collar (for I had done it about my neck), 
and said : 

" *Dear child, thou needest not to tell me thy tale, 
for I have seen him. But if thou must needs wear 
this necklace, I must give thee a gift to go with it. 
But first sit down by the old carline awhile and talk 
with her ; for meseemeth it will be but a few days ere 
thou shalt depart from this uttermost wilderness, and 
the woods before the mountains. 

*' So I sat down by her, and in spite of her word I 
told her all that had befallen betwixt me and the 
king's son : for my heart was too full that I might 
refrain me. She nodded her head from time to time, 
but said naught, till I had made an end : and then 
fell to telling me of many matters for my avail ; but 
yet arose earlier than her wont was; and when we 
were about sundering on the path which I had trodden 
above the Dale, she said: *Now must I give thee 
that gift to go along with the gift of the lover, the 
King's son ; and I think thou wilt find it of avail 
before many days are gone by/ Therewith she took 
from her pouch a strong sharp knife, and drew it 
from the sheath, and flashed it in the afternoon sun, 

184 



and gave it to me ; and I took it and laid it in my 
bosom and thanked her ; for I thought that I under- 
stood her meaning, and how it would avail me. Then 
I went driving my goats home speedily, so that the 
sun was barely set when I came to the garth ; and a 
great horror rather than a fear of my mistress was on 
me; and lo! she stood in the door of the house 
gazing down the garth and the woodland beyond, as 
though she were looking for my coming : and when 
her eyes lighted on me, she scowled, and drew her 
lips back from her teeth and clenched her hands with 
fury, though there was nought in them ; and she was 
a tall and strong woman, though now growing some- 
what old : but as for me, I had unsheathed the 
carline's gift before I came to the garth, and now I 
held it behind my back in my left hand. 

*^I had stayed my feet some six paces from the 
threshold, and my heart beat quick, but the sick fear 
and cowering had left me, though the horror of her 
grew in my heart. My goats had all gone off quietly 
to their house, and there was nothing betwixt me and 
her. In clearing from my sleeve the arm of me 
which held the knife, the rough clasp which fastened 
my raiment together at the shoulder had given way, 
and the cloth had fallen and left my bosom bare, so 
that I knew that the collar was clearly to be seen. So 
we stood a moment, and I had no words, but she 
spake at last in a hard, snarling voice^ such as she 
oftenest used to me, but worse. • 

" * Now at last the time has come when thou art of 
no more use to me ; for I can see thee what thou hast 
got for thyself. But know now that thou hast not 
yet drunk of the Well at the World's End, and that 
it will not avail thee to flee out of this wood; for as 
long as I live thou wilt not be able to get out of reach 
of my hand; and I shall live long: I shall live long. 
G)me, then, and give thyself up to me, that I may 

185 



deal with thee as I threatened when I slew thy friend 
the white goat; for, indeed, I knew then that it 
would come to this/ 

"She had but twice or thrice spoken to me so many 
words together as this ; but I answered never a word, 
but stood watching her warily. And of a sudden she 
gave forth a dreadful screaming roar, wherewith all 
the wood rang again, and rushed at me ; but my hand 
came from behind my back, and how it was I know 
not, but she touched me not till the blade had sunk 
into her breast, and she fell across my feet, her right 
hand clutching my raiment. So I loosed her fingers 
from the cloth, shuddering with horror the while, and 
drew myself away from her and stood a little aloof, 
wondering what should happen next. And indeed I 
scarce believed but she would presently rise up from 
the ground and clutch me in her hands, and begin the 
tormenting of me. But she moved no more, and the 
grass all about her was reddened with her blood ; and 
at last I gathered heart to kneel down beside her, and 
found that she no more breathed than one of those 
conies or partridges which I had been used to slay for 
her. 

" Then I stood and considered what I should do, 
and indeed I had been pondering this all the way from 
the Dale thereto, in case I should escape my mistress. 
So I soon made up my mind that I would not dwell 
in that house even for one night; lest my mistress 
should come to me though dead, and torment me. 
I went into the house while it was yet light, and looked 
about the chamber, and saw three great books there 
laid on the lectern, but durst not have taken them even 
had I been able to carry them; nor durst I even to 
look into them, for fear that some spell might get to 
work in them if they were opened ; but I found a rye 
loaf whereof I had eaten somewhat in the mornina, and 
another untouched, and hanging to a horn of the 

1 86 



lectern I found the necklace which my mistress had 
taken from the dead woman. These I put into my scrip, 
and as to the necklace, I will tell thee how I bestowed 
it later on. Then I stepped out into the twilight which 
was &ir and golden, and full fain 1 was of it. Then 
I drove the goats out of their house and went my way 
towards the Dale of Lore, and said to myself that the 
carline would teach me what further to do, and I came 
there before the summer dark had quite prevailed, and 
slept sweetly and softly amongst my goats after I had 
tethered them in the best of the pasture. 

CHAPTER V. YET MORE OF THE LADY'S 
STORY. 

** T O thou^ beloved," she said, **thou hast seen me 
I in the wildwood with little good quickened in 
" ^ me : doth not thine heart sink at the thought 
of thy love and thy life given over to the keeping of 
such an one ? " He smiled in her face, and said : '^ Belike 
thou hast done worse than all thou hast told me: and 
these days past I have wondered often what there was 
in the stories which they of the Burg had against thee : 
yet sooth to say, they told little of what thou hast 
done: no more belike than being their foe/' She 
sighed and said : ** Well, hearken ; yet shall I not tell 
thee every deed that I have been partaker in. 

'^ I sat in the Dale that next day and was happy, 
though I longed to see that fair man again : sooth to 
say, since my mistress was dead, everything seemed 
fairer to me, yea even mine own face, as I saw it in the 
pools of the stream, though whiles I wondered when I 
should have another mistress, and how she would deal 
with me ; and ever I said I would ask the carline when 
she came again to me. But all that day she came not : 
nor did I marvel thereat. But when seven days passed 
and still she came not, I fell to wondering what I should 

187 



do : for my bread was all gone, and I durst not go 
back to the house to fetch meal; though there was 
store of it there. Howbeit, I drank of the milk of 
the goats, and made curds thereof with the woodland 
roots, and ate of the woodberries like as thou hast 
done, friend, e*en now. And it was easier for me to 
find a livelihood in the woods than it had been for 
most folk, so well as I knew them. So wore the days, 
and she came not, and I began to think that I should 
see the wise carline no more, as indeed fell out at that 
time ; and the days began to hang heavy on my hands, 
and I fell to thinking of that way to the west and the 
peopled parts, whereof the carline had told me ; and 
whiles I went out of the Dale and went away hither 
and thither through the woods, and so i&r, that thrice 
I slept away out of the Dale : but I knew that the 
peopled parts would be strange to me and I feared to 
face them all alone. 

** Thus wore the days till July was on the wane, and 
on a morning early I awoke with unwonted sounds in 
mine ears ; and when my eyes were fairly open I saw 
a man standing over me and a white horse cropping 
the grass hard by. And my heart was full and fsun, 
and I sprang to my feet and showed him a smiling 
happy face, for I saw at once that it was that fair man 
come back again. But lo ! his face was pale and worn, 
though he looked kindly on me, and he said : ^ O my 
beloved, I have found thee, but I am faint with hunger 
and can speak but little.' And even therewith he sank 
down on the grass. But I bestirred myself, and gave 
him milk of my goats, and curds and berries, and the 
life came into him again, and I sat down by him and 
laid his head in my lap, and he slept a long while ; 
and when he awoke (and it was towards sunset) he 
kissed my hands and my arms, and said to me : ^ Fair 
child, perhaps thou wilt come with me now ; and even 
if thou art a thrall thou mayest flee with me ; for my 

i88 



horse is strong and fat, though I am weak, for he can 
make his dinner on the grass/ 

^' Then he laughed and I no less ; but I fed him with 
my poor victual again, and as he ate I said : M am no 
mistress's thrall now ; for the evening of the day 
whereon I saw thee I slew her, else had she slain me/ 
* The saints be praised,' said he : * Thou wilt come 
with me, then ? ' * O yea,' said I. Then I felt shame- 
faced and I reddened ; but I said : ' I have abided here 
many days for a wise woman who hath taught me many 
things ; but withal I hoped that thou wouldst come 
also. 

** Then he put his arms about my shoulders and loved 
me much ; but at last he said : ^ Yet is it now another 
thing than that which I looked for, when I talked of 
setting thee by me on the golden throne. For now 
am I a beaten man; I have failed of that I sought, and 
suffered shame and himger and many ills. Yet ever I 
thought that I might find thee here or hereby/ Then 
a thought came into my mind, and I said : ^ Else maybe 
thou hadst found what thou soughtest, and overcome 
the evil things.' * Maybe,' he said ; *it is now but a 
little matter.' 

''As for me, I could have no guess at what were the 
better things he had meant for me, and my heart was 
fuU of joy, and all seemed better than well. And we 
talked together long till the day was gone. Then we 
kissed and embraced each other in the Dale of Lore, 
and the darkness of sunmier seemed but short for our 
delight/' 



189 



CHAPTER VL THE LADY TELLS SOME- 
WHAT OF HER DOINGS AFTER SHE LEFT 
THE WILDERNESS. 

RALPH stayed her speech now, and said : " When 
I asked of thee in the Land of Abundance, 
there were some who seemed to say that thou 
hast let more men love thee than one : and it was a tor- 
ment to me to think that even so it might be. But now 
when thine own mouth telleth me of one of them it irks 
me little. Dost thou think it little-hearted in me ? " 

*^ O friend/' she said, *' I see that so it is with thee 
that thou wouldst find due cause for loving me, what- 
ever thou foundest true of me. Or dost thou deem 
that I was another woman in those days ? Nay, I was 
not: I can see myself still myself all along the way 
I have gone." She was silent a little, and then she 
said : ^' Fear not, I will give thee much cause to love 
me. But now I know thy mind the better, I shall tell 
thee less of what befell me after I left the wilderness; 
for whatever I did and whatever I endured, still it was 
always I myself that was there, and it is me that thou 
lovest. Moreover, my life in the wilderness is a stranger 
thing to tell thee of than my dealings with the folk, and 
with Kings and Barons and Knights. But hereafter 
thou shalt hear of me what tales thou wilt of these 
matters, as the days and the years pass over our heads. 

" Now on the morrow we would not depart at once, 
because there we had some victual, and the king's son 
was not yet so well fed as he should be ; so we abode 
in that fair place another day, and then we went our 
ways westward, according to the rede of the carline ; 
and it was many days before we gat us out of the wil- 
derness, and we were often hard put to it for victual ; 
whiles I sat behind my knight a-horseback, whiles he 
led the beast while I rode alone, and not seldom I 

190 » 



went afoot, and that nowise slowly, while he rode the 
white horse, for I was as light-foot then as now. 

" And of the way we went I will tell thee nought as 
now, because sure it is that if we both live, thou and I 
shall tread that road together, but with our faces tiirned 
the other way; for it is the road from the Well at the 
World's End, where I myself have been, or else never 
had thine eyes fallen on me." 

Ralph said, '^ Even so much I deemed by reading 
in the book ; yet it was not told clearly that thou 
hadst been there." "Yea," she said, "because the 
said book was made not by my friends but my foes, and 
they would have men deem that my length of days and 
the endurance of my beauty and neverndying youth of 
my heart came from evil and devilish sources ; and if 
thou wilt trust my word it is not so, for in the Well at 
the World's End is no evil, but only the Quenching of 
Sorrow, and Clearing of the Eyes that they may behold. 
And how good it is that they look on thee now. And 
moreover, the history of that book is partly false of 
intention and ill-will, and partly a confused medley of 
true and false, which has come of mere chance-hap. 

*^ Hearken now," she said, " till I tell thee in few 
words what befell me before I came to drink the Water 
of the Well. After we had passed long deserts of wood 
and heath, and gone through lands exceeding evil and 
perilous, and despaired of life for the horror of those 
places, and seen no men, we came at last amongst a* 
simple folk who dealt kindly with us, yea, and more. 
These folk seemed to me happy and of good wealth, 
though to my lord they seemed poor and lacking of 
the goods of the world. Forsooth, by that time we 
lacked more than they, for we were worn with cold 
and hunger, and hard life: though for me, indeed, 
happy had been the days of my wayfaring, but my 
lord remembered the days of his riches and the king- 
dom of his father, and the worship of mighty men, 

191 



and all that he had promised me on the happy day 
when I first beheld him : so belike he was scarce so 
happy as I was. 

''It was springtime when we came to that folk; 
for we had worn through the autimm and winter in 
getting clear of the wilderness. Not that the way 
was long, as I found out afterwards, but that we went 
astray in the woodland, and at last came out of it into 
a dr^ful stony waste which we strove to cross thrice, 
and thrice were driven back into the greenwood by thirst 
and hunger; but the fourth time, having gotten us store 
of victual by my woodcraft, we overpassed it and 
reached the peopled country. 

'' Yea, spring was on the earth, as we, my lord and 
I, came down from the desolate stony heaths, and went 
hand in hand across the pl^n, where men and women of 
that folk were feasting round about the simple roofs 
and woodland halls which they had raised there. 
Then they left their games and sports and ran to us, 
and we walked on quietly, though we knew not 
whether the meeting was to be for death or life. But 
that kind folk gathered round us, and asked of us no 
story till they had fed us, and bathed us, and clad us 
after their fashion. And then, despite the nakedness 
and poverty wherein they had first seen us, they would 
have it that we were gods sent down to them from 
the world beyond the mountains by their fathers of old 
time ; for of Holy Church, and the Blessed Trinity, 
and the Mother of God they knew no more than did 
I at that time, but were heathen, as the Gentiles of 
yore agone. And even when we put all that Godhood 
from us, and told them as we might and could what 
we were (for we had no heart to lie to such simple folk), 
their kindness abated nothing, and they bade us abide 
there, and were our loving friends and brethren. 

" There in sooth had I been content to abide till eld 
came upon me, but my lord would not have it so, but 

192 



longed for greater things for me. Though in sooth 
to me it seemed as if his promise of worship of me by 
the folk had been already fulfilled ; for when we had 
abided there some while^ and our beauty, which had 
been marred by the travail of our way-faring, had 
come back to us in full, or it maybe increased some- 
what, they did indeed deal with us with more love 
than would most men with the saints, were they to 
come back on the earth again; and their children 
would gather round about me and make me a partaker 
of their sports, and be loth to leave me ; and die faces 
of their old folk would quicken and gladden when I 
drew nigh : and as for tlvcir young men, it seemed of 
them that they loved the very ground that my feet 
trod on, though it Kiieved me that I could not plea- 
sure some of them m such wise as they desired. And 
all this was soft and full of delight for my soul : and I, 
whose body a little while ago had been driven to daily 
toil with evil words and stripes, and who had known 
not what words of thanks and prdse might mean ! 

'* But so it must be that we should depart, and the 
Idnd folk showed us how sore their hearts were of our 
departure, but they gainsud us in nowise, but rather 
furthered us all they might, and we went our ways 
from them riding on homed neat (for they knew not 
of horses), and driving one for a sumpter beast before 
us ; and they had given us bows and arrows for our 
defence, and that we might get us venison. 

<' It is not to be said that we did not encounter perils ; 
but thereof I will tell thee naught as now. We came 
to other peoples, richer and mightier than these, and I 
saw castles, and abbies, and churches, and walled 
towns, and wondered at them exceedingly. And in 
these places folk knew of the kingdom of my lord and 
his father, and whereas they were not of his foes (who 
lay for the more part on the other side of his land), 
and my lord could give sure tokens of what he was, 

193 



we were treated with honour and worship, and my lord 
began to be himself agdn, and to bear him as a mighty 
man. And here to me was some gain in that poverty 
and nakedness wherewith we came out of the moun- 
tsuns and the raiment of the simple folk ; for had I 
been clad in my poor cloth and coat-skins of the House 
of the Sorcerer^ and he in his brave atdre and bright 
aimour, they would have ssud, it is a thrall that he b 
assotted of, and would have made some story and pre- 
tence for taking me from him ; but they deemed me 
a great lady indeed, and a king's daughter^ according 
to the tale that he told them. Forsooth many men 
that saw me desired me beyond measure, and asraredly 
some great proud man or other would have taken me 
from my lord, but diat they feared the wrath of lus 
father, who was a mighty man indeed. 

*^ Yea, one while as we sojourned by a certain town 
but a little outdde the walls, a certain young man, a 
great champion and exceeding masterful, came upon 
me with his squires as I was ^^dking in the meadows, 
and bore me off, and would have taken me to his 
castle, but that my lord followed with a few of the 
burghers, and there was a battle fought, wherein my 
lord was hurt ; but the young champion he slew ; and 
I cannot say but I was sorry of his death, though glad 
of my deliverance. 

** Again, on a time we guested in a great baron's 
house, who dealt so foully by us that he gave my lord 
a sleeping potion in lus good-night cup, and came to 
me in the dead night and required me of my love ; 
and I would not, and he threatened me sorely, and 
called me a thrall and a castaway that my lonl had 
picked up off the road : but I gat a knife in my hand 
and was for warding myself when I saw that my lord 
might npt wake: so the felon went away for that 
time. But on the morrow came two evil men into 
the hall whom he had suborned, and bore false witness 

194 



that I was a thnll and a runaway. So that iht baron 
would have hdd me there (being a mighty man) 
despite my lord and his wrath ana his grief^ had not 
a young knight of his house been^ who swore that he 
would slay him unless he let us go ; and whereas there 
were other knights and squires there present who 
murmured, the oaron was in a way compelled. So 
we departed, and divers of the said knights and 
squires went mth us to see us safe on the way. 

^^ But this was^ nigh to the kingdom of my lord's 
father, and that fdon baron I came across again, and 
he was ever after one of my worst foes. 

^Moreover, that young champion who had first 
stood 1^ in the hall rode with us still, when the 
others had turned back; and I soon saw of him that 
he found it hard to keep his eyes off me ; and that 
also saw my lord, and it was a near thing that they 
did not draw sword thereover : yet was that knight 
no evil man, but good and true, and I was exceeding 
sorry for him ; but I could not help him in the only 
way he woul^ take help of me. 

^^Ijo you, my friend, the beginnings of evil in those 
long past days, and the seeds of ili-hap sown in the 
field of my new life even before the furrow was turned. 

<' Well, we came soon into my lord's country, and 
fair and rich and lovely was it in those days; free 
from trouble and unpeace, a happy abode for the 
tillers of the soil, and the feshioners of wares. The 
tidings had gone to the king that my lord was come 
back, and he came to meet him with a great company 
of knights and barons, arrayed in the noblest faraion 
tiiat such fdk use; so that I was bewildered with 
thdr glory, and besought my lord to let me fall back 
out of the way, and perchance he might find me a^in. 
But he bade me lide on his right hand, for that f was 
t^e half of his life and his soul, and that my friends 
were his friends and my foes his foes. 

'95 



*^ Then there came to me an inkling of the things 
that should hthH, and I saw that the sweet and clean 
happiness of my new days was marred, and had grown 
into something else, and I began to know the pain of 
strife and the grief of confusion : but whereas I had 
not been bred delicately, but had endured woes and 
griefs from mv youngest days, I was not abashed, but 
hardened my heart to hct sdl things, even as my lord 
strove to harden his heart: for, indeed, I ssdd to 
myself that if I was to him as the half of his life, he 
was to me little less than the whole of my life. 

*' It is as if it had befallen yesterday, my friend, that 
I call to mind how we stood beside our norses in the 
midst of the ring of great men clad in gold and 
gleaming with steel, in tnt meadow without the gates^ 
the peace and lowly goodlmess whereof with its flocks 
and herds fee^g, and husbandmen tending the earth 
and its increase, that great and noble array. had 
changed so utterly. There we stood, and I knew 
that the eyes of all those lords and warriors were set 
upon me wondering. But the love of my lord and 
the late-learned knowledge of my beauty sustained 
me. Then the ring of men opened, and the king 
came forth towards us ; a tall man and big, of fifty- 
five winters, goodly of body and like to my lord to 
look upon. He cast his arms about my lord, and 
kissed him and embraced him, and then stood a little 
aloof from him and said: ^ Well, son, hast thou found 
it, the WeU at the World's End? ' 

** * Yea,' said my lord, and therewith lifted my hand 
to his lips and kissed it, and I looked the king in his 
face, and his eyes were turned to me, but it was as if 
he were looking through me at something behind me. 

** Then he said : ^ It is good, son : come home now 
to thy mother and thy kindred.* Then my lord 
turned to me while the king took no heed, and no 
man in the ring of knights moved from his place, and 

196 



he set me in the saddle, and turned about to mount; 
and there came a lord from the ring of men gloriously 
bedight, and he bowed lowly before my lord^ and 
held his stirrup for him : but lightly he leapt up into 
the saddle, and took my reins and led me along with 
him, so that he and the king and I went on together, 
and all the baronage and their folk shouted and tossed 
sword and spear aloft and followed after us. And we 
left the mdidow quiet and simple again, and rode 
through the gate of the king's chief city, wherein was 
his high house and his castle, the dwelling-place of his 
kindred from of old. 



CHAPTER VII. THE LADY TELLS OF THE 
STRIFE AND TROUBLE THAT BEFELL AF- 
TER HER COMING TO THE COUNTRY OF 
THE KING'S SON. 

"XX THEN we came to the King's House, my 
m/^ lord followed his father into the hall, 
^ ^ where sat his mother amongst her damsek: 
she was a fair woman, and looked rather meek than 
high-hearted; my lord led me up to her, and she 
embraced and kissed him and caressed him long ; then 
she turned, about to me and would have spoken to me, 
but the king, who stood behind us, scowled on her, 
and she forebore ; but she looked me on somewhat 
kindly, and yet as one who is afeard. 

'* Thus it went for the rest of the day, and my lord 
had me to sit beside him in the great hall when the 
banquet was holden, and I ate and drank with him and 
beheld all the pageants by his side, and none meddled 
with me either to help or to hinder, because they 
feared the king. Yet many eyes I saw that desired 
my beauty. And so when night came, he took me 
to his chamber and his bed, as if I were his bride new 
wedded, even as it had been with us on the grass of 

'97 



the wilderness and the bracken of the ^ndldwood* 
And then^ at last^ he spake to me of our case, and 
bade me fear not» for that a band of his friends, all- 
armed, was keeping watch and ward in the cloister 
without. And when I left the chamber on die 
morrow's mom, there were they yet, all in hrig^ 
armour, and amongst them the young knight who 
had delivered me fifom the felon baron, and ht looked 
mournfully at me, so that I was sorry for his sorrow. 

*'And I knew now that the king was minded to afaqr 
me, else had he bidden thrust me from my latd*t 
^de. 

^' So wore certain days ; and on the seventh night, 
when we were come into our chamber, which was a 
fair as any house outside of heaven, my lord QMike 
to me in a soft voice, and bade me not do off my 
raiment * For,' sud he, ^ this night we must: flee 
the town, or we shall be taken and cast into priscm 
to-morrow ; for thus hath my father determined/ I 
kissed him and dung to him, and he no less was good 
to me. And when it was the dead of nigUt we 
escaped out of our window by a knotted rope which 
he had made ready, and beneath was the city wall; 
and that company of knights^ amongst whom was the 
young knight abovesaid, had taken a postern thereby, 
and were abiding us armed and with good horses. 
So we came into the open coimtry, and rode our ways 
with the mind to reach a hill-castle of one of those 
young barons, and to hold ourselves there in despite 
of the king. But the king had been as wary as we 
were privy, and no less speedy than we ; and he was 
a mighty and deft warrior, and he himself followed 
us on the spur with certain of his best men-at-arms^ 
And they came upon us as we rested in a wood^de 
not far from our house of refuge: and the king 
stood by to see the battle with his sword in his sheath, 
but soon was it at an end, for though our friends 

198 



fought valiantly, they were everyone slain or hurt, 
and but few escaped with bare life ; but that young 
man who loved me so sorely crept up to me grievously 
hnrty and I did not forbear to kiss him once on the face, 
fori deemed I should soon die also, and his blood stained 
my sleeve and my wrist, but he died not as then, but 
lived to be a dear friend to me for long. 

** So we, my lord and I, were led back to the city, 
and he was held in ward and I was cast into prison 
with chains and hunger and stripes. And the king 
would have had me lie there till I perished, that I 
might be forgotten utterly ; but there were many of 
the king's knights who murmured at this, and would 
not forget me ; so the king being constrained, had me 
brought forth to be Judged by his bishops of sorcery 
for the beguiling of my lord. Long was the tale to 
me then, but I win not make it long for thee ; as was like 
to be, I was brought in guilty ofsorcery, and doomed 
to be burned in the Great Square in three days time. 

** Nay, my friend, thou hast no need to look so 
troubled ; for thou seest that I was not burned. This 
18 the selfsame body that was tied to the stake in the 
market place of the king's city many a year ago. 

" For the friends of my lord, young men for the 
most part, and many who had been ram to be my 
friends also, put on their armour, and took my lord 
out of the courteous prison wherein he was, and came 
to the Great Square whenas I stood naked in my smock 
bound amid the faggots ; and I saw the sheriffs' men 
give back, and great noise and rumour rise up around 
me : and then all about me was a clear space for a 
moment and i heard the tramp of many horse-hoofs, 
and the space was full of weaponed men shouting, and 
crying out, ' Life for our Lord's Lady ! ' Then a 
minute, and I was loose and in my lord's arms, and 
they brought me a horse and I mounted, lest the worst 
should come and we might have to flee. So I could 

199 



see much of what went on ; and I saw that all the 
unarmed folk and lookers-on were gone, but at our 
backs was a great crowd of folk with staves and bows 
who cried out, * Life for the Lady ! ' But before us 
was naught but the sheriffs' sergeants and a company 
of knights and men-at-arms, about as many as wc were, 
and the king in front of them, fully armed, his face 
hidden by his helm, and a royal surcoat over his haaberic 
beaten with his bearing, to wit, a silver tower on a blue 
sky bestarred with gold. 

'^ And now I could see that despite the biUs and 
bows behind us the king was going to fall on with Us 
folk ; and to say sooth I feared but little and my heart 
rose high within me, and I wished I had a sword in my 
hand to strike once for life and love. But lo 1 just as 
the king was raising lus sword, and his trumpet was 
lifting the brass to his lips, came a sound of «nging, 
and mere was come the Bishop and the Abbot of St 
Peter's and his monks with him, and cross bearers and 
readers and others of the religious : and the ffiahop 
bore in his hand the Blessed Host ^as now I know it 
was) under a golden canopy, and ne stood between 
the two companies and faced the king, while his folk 
sang loud and sweet about him. 

'^ Then the spears went up from the rest, and swords 
were sheathed, and there went forth three ancient 
knights from out of the king's host and came up to him 
and spake with him. Then he eat him away unto his 
High House ; and the three old knights came to our 
folk, and spake with the chiefs; but not with my 
lord, and I heard not what they said. But my lord 
came to me in all loving-kindness and brought me into 
the house of one of the lineage, and into a fair chamber 
there, and kissed me, and made much of me ; and 
brought me fair raiment and did it on me with his 
own hands, even as his wont was to be for my tire- 
maiden. 

200 



*^ Then in a little while came those chiefs of ours 
and ssud that trace had been hanselled them for this 
time^ but on these terms^ that my lord and I and all 
those who had been in arms, and whosoever would, 
that feared the kmg's wrath, should have leave to depart 
from his city so ^at they went and abode no nearer 
than fifty miles thereof till they should know his 
further pleasure. Albeit that whosoever would go 
home peaceably might abide in the city still and nc^ 
not fear the king's wrath if he sdrred no further : but 
that in an v case the Sorceress should get her gone from 
those walls. 

** So we rode out of the gates that very day before 
sunset ; for it was now midsummer again, and it was 
three hours before noon thati was to have been burned ; 
and we were a gallant company of men-at-arms and 
knights ; yet did I bethink me of those who were slwi 
on that other day when we were taken, and fain had I 
been that they were riding with us; but at least that fair 
young man was in our company, though still weak with 
his hurts : for the prison and the process had worn 
away wellnigh two months. Trae it is that I rejoiced 
to see him, for I had deemed him dead. 

** Dear friend, I pray thy pardon if I weary thee 
with making so long a tale of^ my friends of the past 
days ; but needs must I tell thee somewhat of them^ 
lest thou love that which is not. Since truly it is 
myself that I would have thee to love, and none other. 

** Many folk gathered to us as we rode our ways to 
a town which was my lord's own, and where all men 
were his friends, so that we came there with a gieat 
host and sat down there in no fear of what the king 
might do against us. There was I duly wedded to 
my lord by a Bishop of Holy Church, and made his 
Lady and Queen ; for even so he would have it. 

*' And now began the sore troubles of that land, 
which had been once so peacefiil and happy ; the tale 

aoi 



whereof I may one day tell thee; or rather mtny tales 
of what befell me therein ; but not now ; for the day 
weareth ; and I still have certain things that I must 
needs tell thee. 

'* We waged war against each other, my lord and 
the king, and whiles one, and whiles the other over- 
came. Either side belike deemed that one battle or 
two would end the strife; but so it was not, but it 
endured year after year, till fighting became the chief 
business of all in the land. 

^^ As for me, I had many tribulations.. Thrice I 
fled from the stricken field with my lord to hide in 
some stronghold of the mountains. Once was I taken 
of the fbemen in the town where I abode when my 
lord was away from me, and a huge slaughter of in- 
nocent folk was made, and I was cast into prison and 
chains, after I had seen my son that I had borne to my 
k>rd slain before mine eyes. At last we were driven 
clean out of the Kingdom of the Tower^ and abode a 
long while, some two years,in the wilderness^ living like 
outlaws and wolves' heads, and lifting the spoil for our 
livelihood. Forsooth of all the years that I abode about 
the Land of Tower those were the happiest. For we 
robbed no poor folk and needy, but rewarded them 
rather, and drave the spoil from rich men and lords, 
and hard-hearted chapmen-folk : we ravished no mfud 
of the tillers, we burned no cot, and taxed no husband- 
man's croft or acre, but defended them from their 
tyrants. Nevertheless we gat an ill name wide about 
through the kingdoms and cities ; and were devils and 
witches to the boot of thieves and robbers in the 
mouths of these men ; for when the rich man is hurt 
his wail goeth heavens high, and none may say he 
heareth not. 

'^ Now it was at this time that I first fell in with the 
Champions of the Dry Tree; for they became our 
feUows and brothers, m arms in the wikiwood: for 

202 



they had not as yet builded thdr stronghold of the 
ScauTy whereas thou and I shall be in two days time. 
Many a wild deed did our folk in their company, and 
many that had been better undone. Whiles indeed 
they went on journeys wherein we were not partakers^ 
as when they went to the North and harried the lands 
of the Abbot of Higham, and rode as far even as 
over the Downs to Bear Castle and fought a battle 
there with the Captain of Hieham : whereas we went 
never out of the Wood Perilous to the northward; 
and lifted little save in the lands of our own proper 
foemen, the friends of the king. 

'^ Now I say not of the men of the Dry Tree that 
they were good and peaceable men, nor would mercy 
hold their hands every while that they were hard 
bestead and thrust into a comer. Yet I say now and 
once for all that their fierceness was and is but kind- 
ness and pity when set against the cruelty of the Burg 
of the Four Friths ; men who have no friend to love, 
no broken foe to forgive, and can scarce be kind even 
to themselves : though forsooth they be wise men and 
cautelous and well living before the world, and wealthy 
and holy." 

She stayed her ^)eech a while, and her eyes glittered 
in her flushed fact and she set her teeth ; and she was 
as one beside herself lill Ralph kissed her kct^ and 
caressed her, and she went on again. 

'^ Dear fnend, when thou knowest what these men 
are and have been thou wilt bless thy friend Roger 
for leading thee forth from the Burg by night and 
cbud, whatever else may happen to thee. 

^ Well, we abode in tl^ wildwood, friends and 
good fellows from the first; and that young man^ 
though he loved me ever, was somewhat healed of the 
fever of love, and was my ^thful friend, in such wise 
that neither I nor my lord had aught to find fault 
with in him. Meanwhile we began to grow strong, 

ao3 



for many Joined us therein who had fled from their 
tyrants or the good town^ and the manors of the 
baronage, and at last in the third year naught would 
please my lord but we must enter into the Kmgdom 
of the Tower, and raise his banner in the wealthy 
land, and the fair cities. 

" Moreover, his father, the King of the Tower, 
died in his bed in these days, and no word of love or 
peace had passed between them since that morning 
when I was led out to be burned in the Great Square. 

" So we came forth from the forest, we, and the 
Champions of the Dry Tree ; and made the tale a 
short one. For the king, the mighty warrior and 
wise man, was dead : and his captains of war, some 
of them were dead, and some weary of strife ; and 
those who had been eager in debate were falling to 
ask themselves wherefore they had fought and what 
was to do that they should still be fighting; and k>! 
when it came to be looked into, it was all a matter of 
the life and death of one woman, to wit me myself, 
and why should she not live, why should she not sit 
upon the throne with the man who loved her ? 

^'Therefore when at last we came out from the 
twilight of the woods into the sunny fields of the 
Land of the Tower, there was no man to naysay us; 
nay, the gates of the strong places flew open before 
the wind of our banners, and the glittering of our 
spears drew the folk together toward the places of 
rejoicing. We entered the master City in triumph, 
with the houses hung with green boughs and the 
maidens casting flowers before our feet, and I sat a 
crowned Queen upon the throne high raised on die 
very place where erst I stood awaiting the coming of 
the torch to the faggots which were to consume me. 

" There then began the reign of the Woman of the 
Waste ; for so it was, that my lord left to my hands 
the real ruling of the kingdom, though he wore the 

204 



crown and set the seal to parchments. As to them of 
the Dry Tree, though son^e few of them abode in the 
kingdom, and became great there, the more part of 
them went back to the wildwood and lived the old 
life of the Wood, as we had found them living it afore- 
time. But or ever they went, the leaders of them came 
before me, and Idssed my feet, and with tears and 
prayers besought me, and bade me that if aught fell 
amiss to me there, I should come back to them and be 
their Lady and Queen ; and whereas these wild men 
loved me well, and I deemed that I owed much to 
their love and thdr helping, I promised them and 
swore to them by the Water of the Well at the 
World's End that I would do no less than they 
prayed me : albeit I set no term or year for the day 
that I would come to them. 

^^And now my lord and I, we set ourselves to 
heal the wounds which war had made in the land : 
and hard was the work, and late the harvest ; so used 
had men become to turmoil and trouble. Moreover^ 
there were many, and chiefly the women who had 
lost husband, lover, son or brother, who laid all their 
griefs on my back ; though forsooth how was I guilty 
of the old king's wrath ag^nst me, which was the 
cause of all? About this time my lord had the 
Castle of Abundance built up very fairly for me and 
him to dwell in at whiles ; and indeed we had before 
that dwelt at a little manor house that was there, 
when we durst withdraw a little from the strife ; but 
now he had it done as fiur as ye saw it, and had those 
arras cloths made with the story of my sdourn in the 
wilderness, even as ye saw them. But the days and 
the years wore, and wealth came back to the mighty 
of the land, and the fields flourished and the acres 
bore increase, and fair houses were builded in the 
towns ; and the land was called happy again. 

^' But for me I was not so happy : and I looked back 

ao5 



Ibndly to the days of the greenwood and the felkiw** 
ship of the Dry Tree, and the days before that, of my 
flkht with my lord And moreover with the wearing 
c^the years those murmurs against me and the blind 
causeless hatred began to grow again, and chiefly 
methinks because I was the king, and my lord die 
king's cloak : but therewith tales concerning me began 
to spring up^ how that I was not only a sorceress, but 
even one foredoomed from of old and sent by the 
lords of heU to wreck that fair Land of the Tower and 
make it unhappy and desolate. And the tak grew 
and gathered form, till now, when the bloom of my 
beauty was gone, I heard hard and fierce words cried 
after me in the streets when I fared abroad, and that 
still chiefly by the women : for yet most men locdced 
on me with pleasure. Also my counsellors and lords 
warned me often that I must be wary and of great 
forbearance if trouble were to be kept back. 

*' Now amidst these things as I was walking pen- 
sively in my garden one summer day, it was told me 
that a woman desired to see me, so I bade them bring 
her. And when she came I looked on her, and 
deemed that I had seen her aforetime : she was not 
old, but of middle age, of dark red hair, and brown 
eyes somewhat small: not a big woman, but well 
^shioned of body, and looking as if she had once been 
exceeding dainty and trim. She spake, and again I 
seemed to have heard her voice before : ^ Hail, Queen,' 
she said, ^ it does my heart good to see thee thus in thy 
glorious estate.' So I took her greeting ; but those 
teles of my being but a semting of the Devil for the 
ruin of that land came into my mind, and I sent away 
the folk who were thereby before I sud more to her. 
Then she spake again : * Even so I guessed it would 
be that thou wouldst grow great amongst women.' 

"But I said, *What is this? and when have I 
known diee before-time ? * She smiled and s^d 

206 



naught; and my mind vent back to those old days^ 
and I treniUedy and the flesh crept upon my bones^ 
lest dib should be the coming back m a new shape of 
my mistress whom I had slun. But the woman laughed, 
nnd said, as if she knew my thoughts : ^ Nay, it is not 
so : die dead are dead ; fear not : but hast thou forgotten 
the Dale of Lore?' 

*'^Nay,' said I, ^ never; and art thou then the 
carfine that learned me lore? But if the dead come 
ncyt back, how do the old grow young i^ain ? for 'tis 
a acore of years since we two sat in the Dale, and I 
longed for many things.' 

*' Said the woman: * The dead may not drink of 
the Well at the World!s End; yet the living may, 
even if they be old ; and that blessed ¥rater eiveth 
them new might and changeth their bkxxl, and they 
are as young folk for a long while again after they 
have drunken/ * And hast thou drunken ?' said L 

'' * Yea,' she said ; * but I am minded for another 
draught' I said: ^ And wherefore hast thou come to 
me, and what shall I give to thee ?' She said, ' I will 
take no gift of thee as now, for I need it not, thou^ 
hereafter I may ask a gift of thee. But I am to ask 
this of thee, if thou vmt be my feUow-fkrer on the 
road thither ? ' ' Yea ?' said I, ^ and leave my love and 
my lord, and my kingship which he hath given me? 
for this I will tell diee, that all that here is done^ is 
done by me.' 

** ' Great is thy Kingship, Lady,' said die woman, 
and smiled widial. Then she sat silent a litde, and 
wd : * When six months are worn, it will be spring- 
tide; I will come to thee in the spring days, and 
know what thy mind is then, ^t now I must 
depart' Quoth I : ' Glad shall I be to talk with thee 
again; for though thou hast learned me much of 
wisdom, yet much more I need ; yea, as much as the 
folk: here deem I have already.' ^ Thou shalt have no 

ao7 



less/ ssdd the woman. Then she kissed my hands 
and went her waysy and I sat musmg still for a lomft 
while : because for all my guns^ and my love that I 
had been loved withal, and the greatness that I had 
gotten^ there was as it were a veil of unhappinest 
wrapped round about my heart 

^' So wore the months^ and ere the winter had come 
befell an evil thing, for my lord^ who had loved me 
90y and taken me out of the wilderness, dred^ and was 
gathered to the fathers, and there was I left alone; 
for there was no fruit of my womb by him afivc 
My first-bom had been slain by those wretches, and 
a second son that I bore had died of a pestilence that 
war and femine had brought upon the land. I will 
not wear thy soul with words about my grief and 
sorrow : but it is to be told that I sat now in a 
perilous place, and yet I might not step down At>m 
it and abide in that land, for then it was a sure thing, 
that some of my foes would have laid hand on me 
and brought me to judgment for being but myself 
and I should have ended miserably. So I gat to me 
all the strength that I might, and whereas mere were 
many who loved me still, some for my own sake, and 
some for the sake of my lord that was, I endured in 

{rood hope that all my days were not done. Yet I 
onged for the coming of the Teacher of Lore ; for now 
I made up my mind that I would go with her, and 
seek to the Well at the World's End for weal and woe. 
^' She came while April was yet young : and I need 
make no long tale of how we gat us away: for 
whereas she was wise in hidden lore, it was no hard 
matter for her to give me another semblance than 
mine own, so that I might have walked about the 
streets of our city fit>m end to end, and none had 
known me. So I vanished away from my throne and 
my kingdom, and that name and fame of a witch- 
wife clove to me once and for all, and spread wide 

208 



about the cities of folk and the kingdoms, and many 
are the tales that have arisen concerning me, and 
belike some of these tKou hast heard told/ 

Ralph reddened and said; ^'My soul has been 
vexed by some inkling of them ; but now it is at rest 
from them for ever/' 

^ May it be so !" she said : ^ and now my tale is 
wearing thin for the present time. 

*' Back again went my tett over the ways they had 
trodden before^ though the Teacher shortened the 
road much for us by her wisdom. Once agMn what 
need to tell thee of these ways when thine own eyes 
shall bdiold them as thou wendest them beside me ? 
Be it enough to say that once a^n I came to that 
Kttle house in the uttermost wilderness, and there 
once more was the garth and the goat-house, and the 
trees of the forest beyond it, and the wood-lawns and 
the streams and all the places and things that erst I 
deemed I must dwell amongst for ever/' 

Said Ralph : '' And did the carline keep troth with 
thee ? Was she not but luring thee thither to be her 
thrall ? Or did the book that I read in the Castle of 
Abundance but lie concerning thee ? " 

^^ She held her troth to me in all wise/' said the 
Lady, ^' and I was no thrall of hers, but as a sister, or 
it may be even as a daughter ; for ever to my eyes 
was me the old carline who karned me lore in the 
Dale of the wildwood. 

'* But now a long while, years long, we abode in 
that House of the Sorceress ere we durst seek further 
to the Well at the World's End. And yet meseems 
though the years wore, they wore me no older ; nay, 
in the first days at least I waxed stronger of body and 
fairer dian I had been in the King's Palace in the 
Land of the Tower, as though some foretaste of the 
Well was there for us in the loneliness of the desert ; 
although forsooth the abiding there amidst the scanti- 

oo^ p 



ness of livelihood, and the nakedness^ and the toil, and 
the torment of wind and weather were as a penance 
for the days and deeds of our past lives. What more 
is to say concerning our lives here, saving this, that 
in those days I learned yet more wisdom of the 
Teacher of Lore, and amidst that wisdom was much 
of that which ye call sorcery: as the foreseeing of 
things to come, and the sending of dreams or visions, 
and certsun other matters. And I may tell thee that 
the holy man who came to us last even, I sent him the 
dream which came to him drowsing, and bade him 
come to the helping of Walter the Black : for I knew 
that I should tsJce thy hand and flee with thee dib 
morning e'en as I have done : and I would fun have a 
good leech to Walter lest he should die, although I 
owe him hatred rather than love. Now, my friend, 
tell me, is this an evil deed, and dost thou shrink from 
the Sorceress ? " 

He str^ed her to his bosom and kissed her mouth, 
and then he said : *^ Yet thou hast never sent a dream 
to me." She laughed and said : '^ What I hast thou 
never dreamed of me since we met at the want-way 
of the Wood Perilous?" ^^ Never," said he. She 
stroked his cheek fondly, and said : ^^ Young art thou, 
sweet fi-iend, and sleepest well a-nights. It was enough 
that thou thoughtest of me in thy waking hours." 
Then she went on with her tale. 

CHAPTER VIII. THE LADY MAKETH AN 
END OF HER TALE. 

" "^X TELL, my friend, after we had lived thus a 
^^ long time, we set out one day to seek to 
^ ^ the Well at the World's End, each of us 
signed and marked out for the quest by bearing such- 
like beads as thou and I both bear upon our necks to- 
day. Once again of all that befell us on that quest I 
will tell thee naught as now : because to that Well 

2IO 



have I to bring thee : though myself^ belike^ I need 
not its waters again/' 

Quoth Ralph : '' And must thou lead me thy very 
self, mayest thou not abide in some safe place my 
going and returning ? So many and sore as the toils 
and perils of the way may be." ** What ! " she said, 
^' and how shall I be sundered from thee now I have 
found thee ? Yea, and who shall lead thee, thou 
lovely boy ? Shall it be a man to bewray thee, or a 
woman to bewray me? Yet need we not go to- 
morrow, my beloved, nor for many days : so sweet as 
we are to each other. 

** But in those past days it was needs must we 
begin our quest before the burden of vears was over 
heavy upon us. Shortly to say it, we round the Well, 
and drank of its waters after abundant toil and peril, 
as thou mayst well deem. Then the life and the soul 
came back to us, and the past years were as naught to 
us, and my youth was renewed in me, and I became 
as thou seest me to-day. But my fellow was as a 
woman of forty summers again, strong and fair as I 
had seen her when she came into the garden in the 
days of my Queenhood, and thus we returned to the 
House of the Sorceress, and rested there for a little 
from our travel and our joy. 

'^ At last, and that was but some five years ago, the 
Teacher said to me : * Sister, I have learnol thee all that 
thine heart can take of me, and thou art strong in 
wisdom, and moreover again shall it be with thee, 
as I told of thee long ago, that no man shall look on 
thee that shall not love thee. Now I will not seek to 
see thy life that is coming, nor what thine end shall 
be, for that should belike be grievous to both of us ; 
but this I see of thee, that thou wilt now guide thy life 
not as I will, but as thou wilt ; and since my way is not 
thy way, and that I see thou shalt not long abide alone, 
now shall we sunder ; for I am minded to go to the most 



ancient parts of the world, and seek all the innermost 
of wisdom whiles I yet live ; but with kings and 
champions and the cities of folk will I have no more 
to do : while thou shalt not be able to refrain from 
these. So now I bid thee farewell/ 

*^ I wept at her words, but gainsaid them naught, 
for I wotted that she spake but the truth ; so I kissed 
her, and we parted ; she went her ways through the 
wildwood, and I abode at the House of the Sorceress^ 
and waited on the wearing of the days. 

^ But scarce a month after her departnrty as I stood 
by the threshold one morning amidst of the goats, I 
saw men come riding from out the wood ; so I abode 
them, and they came to the gate of the garth and 
there lighted down from their horses, and they were 
three in company ; and no one of them was young, 
and one was old, with white locks flowing down fhmi 
under his helm : for they were all armed in knighdy 
fashion, but they had naught but white gaberdines over 
their hauberks, with no coat^armour or token upon 
them. So they came through the garth-gate and I 
greeted them and asked them what they would ; then 
the old man knelt down on the grass before me and 
said : * If I were as young as I am old my heart would 
fail me in beholding thy beauty : but now I will ask 
thee somewhat : far away beyond the forest we heard 
rumours of a woman dwelling in the uttermost desert, 
who had drunk of the Well at the World's End, and 
was wise beyond measure. Now we have set ourselves 
to seek that woman, and if thou be she, we would ask 
a question of thy wisdom.' 

^^ I answered that I was even such as they had heard 
of, and bade them ask. 

^' Said the old man : 

^* ^ Fifty years ago, when I was yet but a young man, 
there was a fair woman who was Queen of the Land of 
the Tower and whom we loved sorely because we had 

212 



dwelt together with her amidst tribulation in the desert 
and the wildwood : and we are not of her people^ but 
a fellowship of free men and champions bight tiie Men 
of the Dry Tree : and we hoped that she would one 
day come back and dwell with us and be our Lady 
and Queen : and indeed trouble seemed drawing anigh 
her, so that we might help her and she might become 
our fellow again, when lo ! she vanished away from 
the folk and none knew where she was gone. There- 
fore a bandofusof the Dry Tree swore an oath tc^ether 
to seek her till we fbund her, that we might live and 
die tc^ether : but of that band of one score and one, 
am I the last one left that seeketh ; for the rest are dead, 
or sick, or departed : and indeed I was the youngest 
of thenu But for these two men, they are my sons 
whom I have bred in the knowledge of these things and 
in the lun>e of finding tidings of our Lady and Queen, 
if it were but the place where her body lieth. Thou art 
wise :- knowest thou the resting place of her bones i ' 

" When I had heard the tale of the old man I was 
moved to my inmost heart, and I scarce knew what to 
say. But now this long while fear was dead in me, so 
I thought I would tell the very sooth : but I said 
first: 'Sir, what I will tell, I will tell without 
beseeching, so I pray thee stand up/ So did he, and I 
said : ' Geofirey, what became of the white hind after 
the banners had left the wildwood? ' He stared wild 
at me, and I deemed diat tears began to come into his 
eyes ; but I said again : ^ What betid to dame Joyce's 
youngest born, the fair little maiden that we left sick 
of a fever when we rode to Up-<:astkr? ' Still he said 
naught but looked at me wondering: and I said: 
* Hast thou ever again seen that great old oak nigh 
the clearing by the water, the half of which fell away 
in the sununer-storm of that last July ? ' 

" Then verily the tears gushed out of his eyes,and he 
wept, for as old as he was ; and when he could master 

213 



himself he said : * Who art thou ? Who art thou ? 
Art thou the daughter of my Lady^ even as these are 
my sons ? ' But I said : * Now will I answer thy first 
question, and tell thee that the Lady thou seekest b 
verily alive ; and she has thriven, for she has drunk 
of the Well at the World's End, and has put from her 
the burden of the years. O Geoflrey, and dost thou 
not know me ? ' And I held out my hand to him, and 
I also was weeping, because of my thought of the 
years gone by ; for this old man had been that swsun who 
had mgh died for me when I fled with my husband 
from the old king ; and he became one of the Dry Tree, 
ahd had followed me with kind service about the woods 
in the days when I was at my happiest. 

'^ But now he fell on his knees before me not like a 
vassal but like a lover, and kissed my feet, and was 
beside himself for joy. And his sons, who were men 
of some forty summers, tall and warrior-like, kissed my 
hands and made obeisance before me. 

^^ Now when we had come to ourselves again, old 
Geoflrey, who was now naught but glad, spake and 
said: ^It is told amongst us that when our host 
departed from the Land of the Tower, after thou hadst 
taken thy due seat upon the throne, that thou didst pro- 
mise our chieftains how thou wouldst one day come back 
to the fellowship of the Dry Tree and dwell amongst 
us. Wilt thou now hold to thy promise ? * I said : *0 
Geoffi*ey, if thou art the last of those seekers, and thou 
wert but a boy when I dwelt with you of old, who of 
the Dry Tree is left to remember me ? ' He hung 
his head awhile then, and spake : ' Old are we grown, 
yet art thou fittest to be amongst young folk : unless 
mine eyes are beguiled by some semblance which will 
pass away presently.' * Nay,' quoth I, * it is not so ; 
as I am now, so shall I be for many and many a day/ 
* Well,' said Geoffrey, * wherever thou mayst be, thou 
shalt be Queen of men. ' 

214 



*^*I list ii6t to be Que^tt again/ said I. Mc 
laughed and said : ^ I wot not how thou mayst help it/ 

**I said: *Tell me of the Dry Tree, how the 
champions have sped, and have they grown greater or 
less/ Said he: 'They are warriors and champions 
from father to son ; therefore have they thriven not 
over well ; yet they have left the thick of the wood, 
and built them a great castle above a little town hieht 
Hampton; so that is now called Hampton under 
Scaur, for upon the height of the said Scaur is our 
castle builded : and there we hold us against the Burg 
of the Four Friths which hath thriven greatly ; there 
is none so great as the Burg in all the lands about' 

** I said : * And the Land of the Tower, thriveth the 
folk thereof at all ?' ' Nay,' he said, * they have been 
rent to pieces by folly and war and greediness : in the 
Great City are but few people, grass grows in its 
streets ; the merchants wend not the ways that lead 
thither. Naught thriveth there since thou stolest 
thyself away from them/ 

" * Nay,' I said, ' I fled from their malice, lest I 
should have been brought out to be burned once 
more ; and there would have been none to rescue 
then/ * Was it so ? ' said old Geoflrey ; * well it is all 
one now ; their day is done/ 

^^ ' Well/ I said, ^ come into my house, and eat and 
drink therein and sleep here to-nigh(^ and to-morrow 
I shall tell thee what I will do/ 

'^ Even so they did ; and on the morrow early I 
spake to Geoffrey and said : ' What hath befallen the 
Land of Abundance, and the castle my lord built for 
me there ; which we held as our refuge all through 
the War of the Tower, both before we joined us to 
you in the wildwood, and afterwards ? ' He said : * It 
is at peace still ; no one hath laid hand on it ; there is a 
simple folk dwelling there in the clearing of the wood, 
which forgetteth thee not; though forsooth strange 

215 



tales are told of thee there ; and the old men deem 
that it is but a little since thou hast ceased to come 
and go there; and they are ready to worship thee as 
somewhat more than the Blessed Saints, were it not 
for the Fathers of the Thorn who are their masters.' 

^^ I pondered this a while^ and then said : * Geofirey, 
ye shall bring me hence away to- the peopled parts, 
and on the way, or when we are come amonnt the 
cities and the ^ngdoms, we will settle it whither I 
shall go. See thou ! I were fain to be of the brotheiv 
hood of the Dry Tree ; yet I deem it will scarce be 
that I shall go and dwell there straightway.' 

^* Therewith the old man seexned content; and 
indeed now that the first joy of our meeting, when his 
youth sprang up in him once more, was over^ he 
found it hard to talk freely with me, and was down- 
cast and shy before me, as if something had come 
betwixt us, which had made our lives cold to each 
other. 

^^ So that day we left the House of the Sorceress, 
which I shall not see again, till I come there hand in 
hand with thee, beloved. When we came to the 
peopled parts, GeoflFrey and his sons brought me to 
the Land of Abundance, and I found it all as he had 
said to me : and I took up my dwelling in the castle, 
and despised not those few folk of the land, but was 
kind to them : but though they praised my gifts, and 
honoured me as the saints are honoured, and though 
they loved me, yet it was with fear, so that I had 
little part with them. There I dwelt then ; and the 
book which thou didst read there, part true and part 
false, and altogether of malice against me, I bought of 
a monk who came our way, and who at first was sore 
afeared when he found that he had come to my 
castle. As to the hailing of the Chamber of Dais, 
I have told thee before how my lord, the King's Son, 
did do n%ake it in memory of the wilderness wherein 

216 



he found me, and the life of thralldom from which he 
brought me. There I dwelt till nigh upon these days in 
peace and quiet : nor did I go to the Dry Tree for a long 
while, though many of them sought to me there at the 
Castle of Abundance ; and^woe worth the while ! there 
was oftenest but one end to their guesting, that of all 
gifts, they besought me but ofone, which, alack ! I might 
not give them : and that is the love that I have given 
to thee, beloved. — ^And, oh 1 my fear, that it will weigh 
too light with thee, to win me pardon of thee for all 
that thou must needs pardon me, ere thou canst give 
me all thy love, that I long for so sorely." 

CHAPTER IX. THEY GO ON THEIR WAY 
ONCE MORE. 

•' T OOK now," she said, " I have held thee so 

I long in talk, that the afternoon is waning; 

"**^ now is it time for us to be on the way again ; 
not because I misdoubt me of thy foenum^ but 
because I would take thee to a fairer dwelling of the 
desert, and one where I have erst abided ; and more- 
over, there thou shalt not altogether die of hunger. 
See, is it not as if I had thought to meet thee h«« ?" 

^ Yea, in good sooth," said he, ^^ I wot that thou 
canst see the story of things before thfjr fall.'" 

She laughed and said: ''But all this that hath 
befallen nnce I set out to meet thee at the Castle of 
Abundance I foresaw not, any more than I can foresee 
to-morrow. Only I knew that we must needs pass 
by the place whereto I shall now lead thee, and I 
made provision there. Lo 1 now the marvel slain : 
and in such wise shall perish other marvels which 
have been told of me ; yet not all. Come now, let us 
to the way." 

So they joined hands and left that pleasant place, 
and were again going speedily amidst the close pine 

217 



woods awhile, where it was smooth underfoot and 
silent of noises withaK 

Now Ralph said : ^^ Beloved, thou hast told me of 
many things, but naught concerning how thou earnest 
to be wedded to the Knight of the Sun, and of thy 
dealings with him." 

Said she, reddening withal : ** I will tell thee no 
more than this, unless thou compel me : that he would 
have me wed him, as it were against my will^ till I 
ceased striving against him, and I went with him to 
Sunway, which is no great way from the Gistle of 
Abundance, and there befell that treason of Walter the 
Black, who loved me and prayed for my love^ and when 
I gainsaid him, swore by all that was holy, before my 
lord, that it was I who sought his love, and how I had 
told and taught him ways of witchcraft, whereby we 
might fulfill our love, so that the Baron should keep 
a wife for another man. And the Knight of the Sun, 
whose heart had been filled with many tales of my 
wisdom, true and false, believed his friend whom he 
loved, and still believeth him, though he bumeth for 
the love of me now; whereas in those first days of 
the treason, he burned with love turned to hatreds 
So of this came that shaming and casting-forth of me. 
Whereof I will tell thee but this, that the brother of 
my lord, evei^he tall champion whom thou hast seen, 
came upon me presently, when I was cast forth; 
because he was coming to see the Knight of the Sun 
at his home; and he loved me, but not after the 
fashion of his brother, but was kind and mild with 
me. So then I went with him to Hampton and the 
Dry Tree, and great joy made the folk thereof of my 
coming, whereas they remembered their asking of 
aforetime that I would come to be a Queen over 
them, and there have I dwelt ever since betwixt 
Hampton and the Castle of Abundance ; and that tall 
champion has been ever as a brother unto me." 

218 



Said Ralph, *' And thou art their Queen there ? " 
** Yea," she said, ** in a feishion ; yet have they another 
who is mightier than I, and might, if she durs^ hang 
me over the battlements of the Scaur, for she is a fierce 
and hard woman, and now no longer young in years/' 

*^ Is it not so then," said Ralph, ^ that some of the 
ill deeds that are told of thee are of her doing ? 

^^ It is even so," she said, ** and whiles when she has 
spoken the word I may not be against her openly, 
therefore I use my wisdom which I have learned, to 
set free luckless wights from her anger and malice. 
More by token the last time I did thus was the very 
night of the day we parted, after thou hadst escaped 
from the Burg." 

*' In what wise was that ? " said Ralph. She said : 
** When I rode away from thee on that happy day 
of my deliverance by thee, my heart laughed for joy of 
the life thou hadst given me, and of thee the giver, 
and I swore to myself that I would set free the first 
captive or death-doomed creature that I came across, 
in honour of my pleasure and delight : now speedily I 
came to Hampton and the Scaur ; for it is not very 
far from the want-ways of the wood: and there I heard 
how four of our folk had been led away by the men 
of the Burg, therefore it was clear to me that I must 
set these men free if I could ; besides^fl pleased me to 
think that I could walk about the str«» of the foemen 
safely, who had been but just led thitherward to the 
slaughter. Thou knowest how I sped therein. But 
when I came back again to our people, after thou hadst 
ridden away from us with Roger, I heard these tidings, 
that there was one new-come mto our prison, a woman 
to wit, who had been haled before our old Queen for 
a spy and doomed by her, and should be taken forth 
and slain, belike, in a day or two. So I said to myself 
that I was not free of my vow as yet, because those 
friends of mine, I should in any case have done my 

219 



best to deliver them: therefore I deemed my oath 
bound me to set that woman free. So in the night- 
tide when all was quiet I went to the prison and brought 
her forth, and led her past all the gates and wards, 
which was an easy thing to me, so much as I had 
learned, and came with her into the fields betwixt the 
thorp of Hampton and the wood, when it was more 
daylight than dawn, so that I could see her clearly, and 
no word as yet had we spoken to each other. ' But 
then she said to me : ^ Am I to be slain here or led to 
a crueller prison ? ' And I said : ^ Neither one thii^ 
nor the other : for lo I I have set thee free^ and I sbwl 
look to it that there shall be no pursuit of thee till 
thou hast had time to get clear away/ But she said : 
' What thanks wilt thou have for this i Wherefore 
hast thou done it ? ' Andlsaid, ^ It it because of the 
gladness I have gotten/ Said she, ^ And would that 
I might get gladness ! ' So I asked her what was 
amiss now that she was free. She said : ^ I have lost 
one thing that I loved, and found another and lost it 
also/ So I said: ^ Mightest thou not seek for die 
lost ? ' She said, ^ It is in this wood, but when I shall 
find it I shall not have it/ ^ It is love that thou art 
seeking,' said I. ' In what semblance is he ? ' 

" What wilt thou, my friend ? Straightway she 
fell to malod^a picture of thee in words ; so that I 
knew that shr had met thee, and belike after I had 
departed from thee, and my heart was sore thereat ; 
for now I will tell thee the very truth, that she was a 
young woman and exceeding fair, as if she were of 
pearl all over, and as sweet as eglantine ; and I feared 
her lest she should meet thee again in these wildwoods. 
And so I asked her what would she, and she said that 
she had a mind to seek to the Well at the World's End, 
which quencheth all sorrow ; and I rejoiced thereat, 
thinking that she would be far away from thee, not 
thinking that thou and I must even meet to seek to 

220 



it also. So I gave her the chaplet which my witch- 
mistress took m>m the dead woman's neck ; and went 
with her into the wildwood^ and taught her wisdom 
of the way and what she was to do. And again I say 
to thee that she was so sweet and yet with a kind of 
pith in her both of soul and body, and wise withal 
and quiet, that I feared her, though! loved her ; yea 
and still do : for I deem her better than me, and 
meeter for thee and thy love than I be. — Dost thou 
know her i " 

^ Yea," said Ralph, ^ and fair and loyely she is in 
sooth. Yet hast thou naught to do to fear her. And 
true it b that I saw her and spake with her after thou 
hadst ridden awa^. For she came bv the want-ways 
of the Wood Perilous in the dawn of the day after I 
had delivered thee ; and in sooth she told me that she 
looked either for Death, or the Water of the Well to 
end her sorrow." 

Then he smiled and said ; *^ As for that which thou 
sayest, that she had been meeter for me than thou, I 
know not this word. For look you, beloved, she came, 
and passed, and is gone, but thou art here and shalt 
endure." 

She stayed^ and turned and faced him at that word ; 
and love so consumed her, that all q)oifihre words 
f^led her; yea and it was as if^Mu and light- 
hnrtedness were swallowed up in thelre of her love ; 
and all thought of other folk departed from him as he 
fek her tears of love and joy upon his face, and she 
kissed and embraced him there in the wilderness. 



2il 



CHAPTER X. OF THE DESERT-HOUSE AND 
THE CHAMBEROF LOVE IN THE WILDER- 
NESS. 

THEN in a while they grew sober and went on 
their ways, and the sun was westering bdiind 
them, and casting long shadows. And in a 
little while they were come out of the thiclcwoods and 
were in a country of steep little valleys, grassy, be- 
sprinkled with trees and bushes, with hills of sandstone 
going up from them, which were often broken into difis 
rising sheer from the tree-beset bottoms': -and they saw 
plenteous deer both great and small, and the wild 
things seemed to fear them but little. To Ralph it 
seemed an exceeding fsir land, and he was as jojrous 
as it was hxr ; but the Lady was pensive, and at last 
she said : ^^ Thou deemest it fair, and so it is ; yet is 
it the lonesomest of deserts. I deem indeed that it 
was once one of the fairest of lands, with castles and 
cots and homesteads all about, and fur people no few, 
busv with many matters amongst them. But now it 
is all passed away, and there is no token of a dwelling 
of man, save it might be that those mounds we see, 
as yonder, and yonder again, are tofts of house-walls 
long agd4unken into the earth of the valley. And 
now few evejjfl^ the hunters or way-farers that wend 
through it.'^W 

Quoth Ralph : ^ Thou speakest as if there had been 
once histories and tales of this pleasant wilderness: 
tell me, has it anything to do with that land about 
the wide river which we went through, Roger and I, 
as we rode to the Castle of Abundance the other day ? 
For he spoke of tales of deeds and mishaps concerning 
it." " Yea," she said, *^ so it is, and the little stream 
that runs yonder beneath those clifis, is making its 
way towards that big river aforesaid, which is called the 
Swelling Flood. Now true it is also that there are 

a22 



many tales about of the wars and miseries that turned 
this land into a desert, and these may be true enough, 
and belike are true. But these said tales have become 
blended with the story of those afor^aid wars of the 
Land of the Tower ; of which indeed this desert is verily 
a part, but was desert still in the days when I was 
Queen of the Land ; so thou mayst well think that 
they who hold me to be the cause of all this loneliness 
(and belike Roger thought it was so) have scarce got 
hold of the very sooth of the matter." 

^' Even so I deemed,'' said Ralph : ^^ and to-morrow 
we shall cross the big river, thou and I. Is there a 
ferry or a ford there whereas we shall come, or how 
shall we win over it ? " 

She was growing merrier again now, and laughed 
at this and said : ^^ O fair boy ! the crossing will be 
to-morrow and not to-day; let to-morrow cross its 
own rivers; for surely to-day is fsur enough, and 
fairer shall it be when thou hast been fed and art 
sitting by me in rest and peace till to-morrow morn- 
ing. So now hasten yet a little more ; and we will 
keep the said little stream in sight as well as we may 
for the bushes." 

So they sped on, till Ralph said : '^ Will thy feet 
never tire, beloved ? ** ** O child," she ssSt^ " thou 
hast heard my story, and mayst welWMin diat they 
have wrought many a harder day's ^Pk than this 
day's. And moreover they shall soon rest ; for look ! 
yonder is our house for this even, and till to-morrow's 
sun is high : the house for me and thee and none else 
with us.' And therewith she pointed to a place 
where the stream ran in a chsun of pools and stickles, 
and a sheer dilF rose up some fifty paces beyond it, 
but betwixt the stream and the cliff was a smooth 
table of greensward, with three fair thorn bushes 
thereon, and it went down at each end to the level of 
the river's lip by a green slope, but amidmost, the little 

223 



green plain was some ten feet above the stream, and was 
broken by a little undercliiF, which went down sheer 
into the water. And Ralph saw in the face of the 
high cliiF the mouth of a cave, however deep it mxgbt 
be. 

*^ Come," said the Lady, " tarry not, for I know 
that hunger hath hold of diee, and look, how low the 
sun is growing!'' Then she caught him fay die 
hand, and fell to running with him to- the edge of die 
stream, where at the end of the further sbpe it rui 
wide and shallow before it entered into a deep pool 
overhung with boughs of alder and thorn. She 
stepped daintily over a row of big stones laid in the 
rippling shallow ; and staying herself in mid-stream on 
the biggest of them, and gathering up her gown, looked 
up stream with a happy face, wd then looked over 
her shoulder to Ralph and said : ^' The year has been 
good to me these seasons, so that when I stayed here 
on my way to the Castle of Abundance, I found but 
few stones washed away, and crossed wellnigh dry- 
shod, but this stone my feet are standing on now, I 
brought down from under the cliff, and set it amki- 
most, and I said that when I brought thee hither I 
would stay thereon and talk with thee while I stood 
above tllfe freshness of the water, as I am doit^ now;** 

Ralph loQi|# on her and strove to answer her, but 
no words Mnld come to his lips, because of the 
greatness of his longing ; she looked on him fondly, 
and then stooped to look at the ripples that bubbled 
up about her shoes, and touched them at whiles ; then 
she said : *^ See how they long for the water, these feet 
that have worn the waste so long, and know how kind 
it will run over them and lap about them : but ye must 
abide a little, waste-wearers, till we have done a thing 
or two. Come, love !" And sRb readied her hand 
out behind her to Ralph, not looking back, but when 
she felt his hand touch it, she stepped lighdy over 

224 



the other stones, and on to the grass with him^ and 
led him quietly up the slope that went up to the table 
of greensward before the cave. But when they came 
on to the level khiss she kissed him, and then turned 
toward the vauey and spake solemnly: *'N^ay all 
blessings light on this House of the wilderness and 
this Hall of the Summer-tide, and the Chamber of 
Love that here is!" 

Then was she silent a while, and Ralph brake not 
the silence. Then she turned to him with a face 
grown merry and smiling, and said : ^^ Lo ! how the 
poor lad yeameth for meat, as well he may, so 
long as the day hath been. Ah, beloved, thou 
must be patient a little. For belike our servants 
have not yet heard of the wedding of us. So we 
twain must feed each the other. Is that so much 
amiss r 

He laughed in her face for love, and took her by 
the wrist, but she drew her hand away and went into 
the cave, and came forth anon holding a copper kettle 
with an iron bow, and a bag of meal, which she laid 
at his feet ; then she went into the cave again, and 
brought forth a flask of wine and a beaker ; then she 
caught up the little cauldron, which was well-beaten, 
and thin and light, and ran down to the stream there- 
with, and came up thence presently, Iwpng it full of 
water on her head, going as str^ght adRtately as the 
spear is seen on a day of tourney, moving over the 
barriers that hide the knight, before he lays it in the 
rest. She came up to him and set the water-kettle 
before him, and put her hands on his shoulders, and 
kissed Us cheek, and then stepped back from him and 
smote her palms together, and said : ^^ Yea, it is well 1 
But there are yet more things to do before we rest. 
There is the dighting of the chamber, and the gather- 
ing of wood for the fire, and the mixing of the meal, 
and the kneading and the baking of the cakes ; and all 

2a5 ^ 



that is my work^ and there is the bringing of the 
quarry for the roast, and that is thine." 

Then she ran into the cave and brought forth a 
bow and a quiver of arrows, and ssud: ^^ Art thou 
somewhat or an archer?" Quoth he : ** I shoot not 
ill." " And I," she said, « shoot well, all woodcraft 
comes handy to me. But this eve I must trust to 
thy skill for my supper. Go swiftly and come back 
speedily. Do off thine hauberk, and beat the bushes 
down in the valley, and bring me some small deer, as 
roe or hare or coney. And wash thee in the pool 
below the stepping-stones, as I shall do whiles thou 
art away, and oy then thou comest back, all shall be 
ready, save the roasting of the venison." 

So he did off his waigear, but thereafter tarried a 
little, looking at her, and she said: *^What aileth 
thee not to go ? the hunt's up." He said : ** I would 
first go see the rock-hall that is for our chamber to- 
night; wilt thou not bring me in thither?" **Nay," 
she said, ^' for I must be busy about many matters; 
but thou mayst go by thyself, if thou wilt" 

So he went and stooped down and entered the cave, 
and found it high and wide within, and clean and 
fresh and well-smelling, and the floor of fine white 
sand without a stdn. 

So he knek down and kissed the floor, and said 
aloud : ** God oless this floor of the rock-hall whereon 
my love shall lie to-night ! " Then he arose and went 
out of the cave, and found the Lady at the entry 
stooping down to see what he would do; and she 
looked on him fondly and anxiously ; but he turned 
a merry face to her, and caught her round the middle 
and strained her to his bosom, and then took the bow 
and arrows and ran down the slope and over the 
stream, into the thicket of the valley. 

He went further than he had looked for, ere he 
found a prey to his mind, ai|d then he smote a roe 

226 



with a shaft and slew her, and broke up the carcase 
and dight it duly, and so went his ways back. When 
he came to the stream he looked up and saw a little 
fire glittering not far from the cave, but had no clear 
sight of the Lady, though he thought he saw her 
gown fluttering nigh one of the thorn-bushes. Then 
he did off his raiment and entered that pool of the 
stream^ and was glad to bathe him in the same place 
where her body had been but of late ; for he had 
noted that the stones of the little shore were still wet 
with her feet where she had gone up from the water. 

But now^ as he swam and sported in the sun- warmed 
pool he deemed he heard the whinnying of a horse^ 
but was not sure, so he held himself still to listen, and 
heard no more. Then he laughed and bethought him 
of Falcon his own steed, and dived down imder the 
water ; but as he came up, laughing still and gasping, 
he heard a noise of the clatter or horse hoofs, as if 
some one were riding swiftly up the further side of 
the grassy table, where it was stony, as he had noted 
when they passed by. 

A deadly fear fell upon his heart as he thought of 
his love left all alone ; so he gat him at once out of the 
water and cast his shirt over his head ; but while his 
arms were yet entangled in the sleeves thereof, came to 
his ears a great and awful sound of a man's voice 
roaring out, though there were no shapen words in 
the roar. Then were his arms free through the sleeves, 
and he took up the bow and fell to bending it, and 
even therewith he heard a great wailing of a woman's 
voice, and she cried out, piteously : " Help me, O 
help, lovely creature of God ! " 

Yet must he needs finish bending the bow how- 
soever his heart died within him ; or what help would 
there be of a naked and unarmed man ? At last it 
was bent and an arrow nocked on the string, as he 
leapt over the river and up the slope. 



But even as he came up on to that pleasant place 
he saw all in a moment of time; that there stood 
Silverfax anigh the Cave's mouth, and the Lady lying 
on the earth anigh the horse ; and betwixt her and 
him the Knight of the Sun stood up stark, his 
shining helm on his head, the last rays or the setting 
sun flashing in the broidered image of his armouries. 

He turned at once upon Ralph, shaking his sword 
in the air (and there was blood upon the blade) and 
he cried out in a terrible voice : *^ The witch is dead, 
the whore is dead ! And thou, thief, who hast stolen 
her from me, and lain by her in the wilderness, now 
shalt thou die, thou ! " 

Scarce had he spoken than Ralph drew his bow to 
the arrow-head and loosed ; there was but some twenty 
paces betwixt them, and the shaft, sped by that fell 
archer, smote the huge man through the eye into the 
brain, and he fell down along clattering, dead without 
a word more. 

But Ralph gave forth a great wail of woe, and ran 
forward and knelt by the Lady, who lay all huddled 
up face down upon the grass, and he lifted her up and 
laid her gently on her back. The blood was flowing 
fast from a great wound in her breast, and he tore off 
a piece of his shirt to staunch it, but she without 
knowledge of him breathed forth her last breath ere 
he could touch the hurt, and he still knelt by her, 
staring on her as if he knew not what was toward. 

She had dight her what she could to welcome his 
return from the hunting, and had set a wreath of 
meadow-sweet on her red hair, and a garland of 
eglantine about her girdle-stead, and lert her feet 
naked after the pool of the stream, and had turned 
the bezels of her finger-rings outward, for joy of that 
me^ng. 

After a while he rose up with a most bitter cry, and 
ran down the green slope and over the water, and 

228 



hither and thither amongst the bushes like one mad, 
till he became so weary that he might scarce go or 
stand for weariness. Then he crept back again to that 
Chamber of Love, and sat down beside his new-won 
mate, calling to mind all the wasted words of the day 
gone by ; for the summer night was come now, most 
fair and fragrant. But he withheld the sobbing passion 
of his heart and put forth his hand, and touched her, 
and she was still, and his hand felt her flesh that it was 
cold as marble. And he cried out aloud in the night 
and the wilderness, where there was none to hear him, 
and arose and went away from her, passing by Silverfax 
who was standing nearby, stretching out his head, and 
whinnying at whiles. And he sat on the edge of the 
green table, and there came into his mind despite 
himself thoughts of the pleasant fields of Upmeads, 
and his sports and pleasures there, and the evensong 
of the High House, and the folk of his fellowship and 
his love. And therewith his breast arose and his face 
was wryed, and he wept loud and long, and as if he 
should never make an end of it. But so weary was he, 
that at last he lay back and fell asleep, and woke not 
till the sun was high in the heavens. And so it was, 
that his slumber had been so heavy, that he knew not 
at first what had befallen ; and one moment he felt 
glad, and the next as if he should never be glad again, 
though why he wotted not. Then he turned about and^ 
saw Oliver^ cropping the grass nearby, and the Lady 
lying there like an image that could move no whit, 
though the world awoke about her. Then he re- 
membered, yet scarce all, so that wild hopes swelled 
his heart, and he rose to his knees and turned to her, 
and called to mind that he should never see her alive 
again, and sobbing and wailing broke out from him, 
for he was young and strong, and sorrow dealt hardly 
with him. 

But presently he arose to his feet and went hither 

229 



» > 



and thither^ and came upon the qu&hed coals of the 
cooking-fire : she had baked cakes for his eatings and 
he saw them lying thereby; and hunger constrained 
him, so he took and ate of them while the tears ran 
down his face and mingled with the bread he ate. 
And when he had eaten, he felt stronger and therefore 
was life more grievous to him^ and when he thought 
what he should do, still one thing seemed more iiic- 
some than the other. 

He went down to the water to drink^ and passed 
by the body of the Knight of the Sun, and wrath was 
fierce in his heart against him who had overthrown his 
happiness. But when hejiad drunk and washed hands 
and face he came back again, and hardened his hdut 
to do what he must needs do. He took up the body 
of the Lady and with grief that may not be told of^ he 
drew it into the cave, and cut boughs of trees and bud 
them over her face and all her body, and then took 
great stones from the scree at that other end of the 
little pl^n, and heaped them upon her till she was 
utterly hidden by them. Then he came out on to the 
green place and looked on the body of his foe^ and 
said to himself that all must be decent and in order 
about the place whereas lay his love. And he came 
and stood over the body and said : *' I have naught to 
do to hate him now : if he hated me, it was but 
for a little while, and he knew naught of me. So let 
his bones be covered up from the wolf and the kite. 
Yet shall they not lie alongside of her. I will raise a 
cairn above him here on this h\r little plain which he 
spoilt of all joy." Therewith he fell to, and straightened 
his body, and laid his huge limbs together and closed 
his eyes and folded his arms over his breast ; and then 
he piled the stones above him, and went on casting 
them on the heap a long while after there was need 
thereof. 

Ralph had taken his raiment from the stream-side 

230 



f 



and done them on before this, and now he did on 
helm and hauberk, and girt his sword to his side. 
Then as he was about leaving the sorrowful place, he 
looked on Silverfax, who had not strayed from the 
little plain, and came up to him and did ofF saddle and 
bridle, and l^d them within the cave, and bade the 
beast go whither he would He yet lingered about 
the place, and looked all around him and found naught 
to help him, and could frame in his mind no intent of 
a deed then, nor any tale of a deed he should do 
thereafter. Yet belike in his mind were two thoughts, 
and though neither softened his grief save a little, he 
did not shrink from the^^a^he did from all others ; 
and these two were of his i§bmt at Upmeads, which 
was so ^miliar to him, and of the Well at the World's 
End, which was but a word. 

CHAPTER XL RALPH COMETH OUT OF 
THE WILDERNESS. 

LONG he stood letting these thoughts run through 
his mind, but at kst when it was now mid- 
morning, he stirred and gat him slowly down 
the green slope, and for very pity of himself the tears 
brake out from him as he crossed the stream and came 
into the bushy valley. There he stayed his feet a 
little, and said to himself: '' And whither then am I 
going ? " He thought of the Castle of Abundance 
and the Champions of the Dry Tree, of Higham^ and 
the noble warriors who sat at the Lord Abbot's 
board, and of Upmeads and his own folk : but all 
seemed naught to him, and he thought : " And how 
can I go back and bear folk asking me curiously of 
my wayfarings, and whether I will do this, that, or 
the other thing." Withal he thought of that fair 
damsel and her sweet mouth in the hostelry at 
Bourton Abbas, and groaned when he thought of love 

231 



and its encUng, and he said within himself: ^^ and now 
she is a wanderer about the earth as I am ; " and 
he thought of her quest, and the chaplet of dame 
Katherine, his gossip, which he yet bore on his neck, 
and he deemed that he had naught to choose but to go 
forward and seek that he was doomed to ; and now 
it seemed to him that there was that one thing to do 
and no other. And though this also seemed to lum 
but weariness and grief, yet whereas he had ever 
lightly turned him to doing what work lay ready to 
hand ; so now he knew that he must first of all get 
him out of that wilderness, that he might hear the 
talk of folk concerning the Well at the World's End, 
which he doubted not to hear again when he came 
into the parts inhabited. 

So now, with his will or without it^ his feet bore him 
on, and he followed up the stream which the Lady 
had said ran into the broad river called the Swelling 
Flood; "for," thought he, "when I come there- 
about I shall presently find some castle or good town, 
and it is like that either I shall have some tidings of 
the folk thereof, or else they will compel me to do 
something, and that will irk me less than doing deeds 
of mine own will." 

He went his ways till he came to where the wood 
and the trees ended, and the hills were lower and 
longer^ well grassed with short grass, a down country 
fit for the feeding of sheep ; and indeed some sheep 
he saw, and a shepherd or two, but far off. At last, 
after he had left the stream awhile, because it seemed 
to him to turn and wind round over much to the 
northward, he came upon a road running athwart the 
down country, so that he deemed that it must lead 
one way down to the Swelling Flood ; so he followed 
it up, and after a while began to fall in with folk ; 
and first two Companions armed and bearing long 
swords over their shoulders : he stopped as they met, 

232 



and stared them in the face^ but answered not their 
greeting ; and they had no will to meddle with him, 
seeing his inches and that he was well armed, and 
looked no craven : so they went on. 

Next he came on two women who had with them 
an ass between two pannien, laden with country 
stuff; and they were sitting by the wayside, one old 
and the other young. He made no stay for them, 
and though he turned his face their way, took no heed 
of them more than if they were trees ; though the 
damsel, who was well-liking and somewhat gaily clad, 
stood up when she saw his face anigh, and drew her 
gown skirt about her and moved daindly, and sighed 
and looked after him as he went on, for she longed 
for him. 

Yet ag^n came two men a-horseback, merchants 
clad goooly, with three carles, their servants, riding 
behind them; and all these had weapons and save 
little more heed to him than he to them. But a little 
after they were gone, he stopped and said within 
himself : *^ Maybe I had better have gone their way, 
and this road doubtless leadeth to some place of 
resort." 

But even therewith he heard horsehoofs behind 
him, and anon came up a man a-horseback, armed 
with jack and sallet, a long spear in his handj and 
budgets at his saddle-bow, who looked like some 
lord's man going a message. He nodded to Ralph, 
who gave him good-day ; for seeing these folk * and 
their ways had by now somewhat amended his mind; 
and now he turned not, but went on as before. 

At last the way domb a hill longer and higher than 
any he had yet crossed, and when ne had come to the 
brow and looked down, he saw the big river close 
below running through the wide valley which he had 
crossed with Roger on that other day. Then he sat 
down on the green bank above the way, so heavy of 

^33 



heart that not one of the things he saw gave him any 
joy, and the world was naught to him. But widun a 
while he came somewhat to himself^ and» looking 
down toward the river, he saw that where the road 
met it, it was very wide, and shallow withal^ for the 
waves rippled merrily and glittered in the afternoon 
sun, though there was no wind ; moreover the road 
went up white from the water on the other side^ so he 
saw clearly that this was the ford of a highway. The 
valley was peopled withal : on the other side of the 
river was a little thorp, and there were cots and sheds 
scattered about the hither side, and sheep and neat 
feeding in the meadows, and in short it was another 
world from the desert. 



CHAPTER XIL RALPH FALLETH IN WITH 
FRIENDS AND RIDETH TO WHITWALL. 

RALPH looks on to the ford and sees folk 
riding through the thorp aforesaid and down to 
the river, and they take the water and are 
many in company, some two score by his deeming, 
and he sees the sun glittering on their weapons. 

Now he thought that he would abide their coming 
and see if he might join their company, since if he 
crossed the water he would be on the backward way : 
and it was but a little while ere the head of them 
came up over the hill, and were presently going past 
Ralph, who rose up to look on them, and be seen of 
them, but they took little heed of him. So he sees 
that though they all bore weapons, they were not all 
men-at-arms, nay, not more than a half score, but 
those proper men enough. Of the others, some half- 
dozen seemed by their attire to be merchants, and the 
rest their lads; and withal they had many sumpter 
horses and mules with them. They greeted him not, 
nor he them, nor did he heed them much till they 

234 



were all gone by save three, and then he leapt into the 
-oad with a cry, for who should be riding there but 
Blaise, his eldest brother, and Richard the Red with 
lim, both in good case by seeming; for Blaise was 
:lad in a black coat welted with gold, and rode a good 
Trey palfrey, and Richard was armed well and 
diightly. 

They knew him at once, and drew rein, and Blaise 
lighted down from his horse and cast his arms about 
Ralph, and said : '' O happy day I when two of the 
LJpin^ds kindred meet thus in an alien land! But what 
maketh thee here, Ralph ? I thought of thee as merry 
and safe in Upmeads ? " • 

Ralph s^d smiling, for his heart leapt up at the 
sight of his kindred : '* Nay, must I not seek adven- 
tures like the rest ? So I stole myself away from &ther 
and mother." ^ 111 done^ little lord ! " said Blaise, 
stroking Ralph's cheek. 

Then up came Richard, and if Bl^se were glad, 
Richard was twice glad, and quoth he : ^^ Said I not. 
Lord Blaise, that this chick would be the hardest of 
all to keep under the coop ? Welcome to the High- 
ways, Lord Ralph ! But where is thine horse ? and 
whence and whither is it now ? Hast thou met with 
some foil and been held to ransom ? " 

Ralph found it hard and grievous and dull work 
to answer ; for now again his sorrow had taken hold 
of him : so he said : ** Yea, Richard, I have had adven- 
tures, and have lost rather than won ; but at least I 
am a free man, and have spent but little gold on my 
loss/' 

" That is well," said Richard, ** but whence gat ye 
any gold for spending ? " Ralph smiled, but sadly, 
for he called to mind the glad setting forth and the 
kind face of dame Katherine his gossip, and he said : 
'* Clement Chapman deemed it not unmeet to stake 
somewhat on my luck, therefore I am no pauper." 

235 



^^ Well/' said Bl^se, *' if thou hast no great emnd 
elsewhere, thou mightest ride with us, brother. I 
have had good hap in these day^ though scarce kinely 
or knightly, for I have been buying and selling : what 
matter ? few know Upmeads and its kings to wite 
me with fouling a fair name. Richard, go fetch a 
horse hither for Lord Ralph's riding, and we will 
tarry no longer." So Richard trotted on, and whik 
they abode him, Ralph asked after his brethren, and 
Blaise told him that he had seen or heard naught of 
them. Then Ralph asked of whither away, and Blaise 
told him to Whitwall, where was much recourse of 
merchants from many lands, and a noble market. 

Back then cometh Richard leading a good horse 
while Ralph was pondering his matter, and thinking 
that at such a town he might well hear tidings con- 
cerning the Well at the World's End. 

Now Ralph mounts, and they all ride away tM^ether. 
On the way, partly for brotherhood's sake, partly that 
he might not be questioned overmuch himself, Ralph 
asked Blaise to tell him more of his farings ; and Blaise 
said, that when he had left Upmeads he had ridden 
with Richard up and down and round about, till he 
came to a rich town which had just been taken in 
war, and that the Companions who had conquered it 
were looking for chapmen to cheapen their booty, 
and that he was the first or nearly the first to come 
who had will and money to buy, and the Companions^ 
who were eager to depart, had sold him thieves' penny- 
worths, so that his share of the Upmeads' treasure had 
gone far ; and thence he had gone to another good 
town where he had the best of markets for his newly 
cheapened wares, and had bought more there, such as 
he deemed handy to sell, and so had gone on from 
town to town, and had ever thriven, and had got 
much wealth : and so at last having heard tell of 
Whitwall as better for chaffer than all he had yet 

236 



seeiij he and other chapmen had armed them, and 
waged men-at-arms to defend them, and so tried the 
adventure of the wildwoods, and come safe through. 

Then at last came the question to Ralph concerning 
his adventures, and he enforced himself to speak, and 
told all as truly as he might, without telling of the 
Lady and her woeful ending. 

Thus they gave and took in talk, and Ralph did 
what he might to seem like other folk, that he might 
nurse his grief in his own heart as far asunder from 
other men as might be. 

So they rode on till it was even, and came to Whit- 
wall before the shutting of the gates and rode into the 
street, and found it a fair and great town, well defen- 
sible, with high and new walls, and men-at-arms good 
store to garnish them. 

Ralph rode with his brother to the hostel of the 
chapmen, and there they were well lodged 



CHAPTER XIII. RICHARD TALKETH 
WITH RALPH CONCERNING THE WELL 
ATTHE WORLD'S END. CONCERNING S WE- 
VENHAM. 

ON the morrow Blaise went to his chaffer and to 
visit the men of the Port at the Guildhall : 
he bade Ralph come with him, but he would 
not,butabode in the hall of the hostel and sat pondering 
sadly while men came and went ; but he heard no word 
spoken of the Well at the World's End. In like wise 
passed the next day and the next, save that Richard 
was among those who came into the hall, and he 
talked long with Ralph at whiles ; that is to say that 
he spake, and Ralph made semblance of listening. 

Now as is aforesaid Richard was old and wise, 
and he loved Ralph much, more belike than Lord 
Blaise his proper master, whereas he had no mind for 

^37 



chafCsr^ or aught pertuning to it : so he took heed 
of Ralph and saw that he was sad and weary-hearted ; 
so on the sixth day of their abiding at Whitwall, m 
the morning when all the chapmen were gone about 
their business, and he and Ralph were left alone in 
the Hall, he spake to Ralph and said : *' Tlus is no 
prison, lord." *' Even so/ quoth Ralph. ** Nay, if 
thou doubtest it/' said Richard, 'Met us go to the 
door and try if they have turned the key and shot die 
bolt on us/' Ralph smiled &intly and stood up, and 
said : '^ I will go with thee if thou wiliest it, but sooth 
to say I shall be but a dull fellow of thine to-day/' 
Said Richard: '^ Wouldst thou have been better yester- 
day, lord, or the day before ? " ** Nav/' said Ralph. 
**Wilt thou be better to-morrow?' said Richard 
Ralph shook his head. Said Richard : '^ Yea, but thou 
wilt be, or thou mayst call me a fool else/' '^ Thou art 
kind, Richard," said Ralph ; '^ and I will come with 
thee, and do what thou biddest me ; but I must needs 
tell thee that mv heart is sick/' " Yea," quoth Richard, 
'* and thou needest not tell me so much, dear youngling ; 
he who runs might read that in thee. But come forth." 
So into the street they went, and Richard brought 
Ralph into the market-place, and showed him where 
was Blaise's booth (for he was thriving greatly) but 
Ralph would not go anigh it lest his brother should 
entangle him in talk ; and they went into the Guild- 
hall which was both great and fair, and the smell of 
the new-shaven oak (for the roof was not yet painted) 
brought back to Ralph's mind the days of his child- 
hood when he was hanging about the the building of 
the water-reeve's new house at Upmeads. Then they 
went into the Great Church and heard a Mass at the 
altar of St. Nicholas, Ralph's very friend ; and the 
said church was great to the letter, and very goodly, 
and somewhat new also, since the blossom-tide of 
Whitwall was not many years old : and the altars of 



its chapels were beyond any thing for fairness that 
Ralph had seen save at Higham on the Way. 

But when they came forth from the church, Ralph 
looked on Richard with a face that was both blank 
and weary, as who should say : ^* What is to do now ? " 
And forsooth so woe-begone he looked, that Richard, 
despite his sorrow and trouble for him, could scarce 
withhold his laughter. But he said: '^Well, foster 
son (for thou art pretty much that to me), since the 
good town pleasureth thee little, go we further afield/' 

So he led him out of the market-place, and 
brought him to the east gate of the town which 
hight Petergate Bar, and forth they went and out into 
the meadows under the walls, and stayed him at a 
little bridge over one of the streams, for it was a land 
of many waters ; there they sat down in a nook, and 
spake Richard to Ralph, saying : 

** Lord Ralph, ill it were if the Upmcads kindred 
came to naught, or even to little. Now as for my 
own master Blaise, he hath, so please you, the makings 
of a noble chapman, but not of a noble knight; 
though he sayeth that when he is right rich he will 
cast aside all chaffer ; naught of which he will do. 
As for the others, my lord Gregory is no better, or 
indeed worse, save that he shall not be rich ever, 
having no mastery over himself; while lord Hugh is 
like to be slain in some empty brawl, unless he come 
back speedily to Upmeads." 

* Yea, yea," said Ralph, " what then ? I came not 
hither to hear thee missay my mother's sons." But 
Richard went on : " As for thee, lord Ralph, of thee 
I looked for something ; but now I cannot tell ; for 
the heart in thee seemeth to be dead ; and thou must 
look to it lest the body die also." "So be it !" said 
Ralph. 

Said Richard : ^* I am old now, but I have been 
young, and many things have I seei^ and suffered, ere 

V9 



I came to Upmeads. Old am I, and I cannot feel 
certain hopes and griefe as a young man can; yet 
have I bought the knowledge of them dear enough^ 
and have not forgotten. Whereby I wot well that 
thy drearihead is concerning a woman. Is it not so ?" 
''Yea," quoth Ralph. Said Richard: ''Now shalt 
thou tell me thereof, and so lighten tlune heart a 
little." "I will not tell thee," said Ralph; "or, 
rather, to speak more truly, I cannot ** " Yea," 8»d 
Richard, " and though it were now an ea^er thing ftf 
me to tell thee of the griefe of my life than for thee 
to hearken to the tale, yet I believe thee. But may- 
happen thou mayst tell me of one thing that thou 
desirest more than another/' Said Ralph : '' I deare 
to die/' And the tears started in his eyes therewith. 
But Richard spake, smiling on him kindly : ^ That 
way is open for thee on any day of the week. Why 
hast thou not taken it already ? " But Ralph answered 
naught Richard said: ''Is it not because thou 
hopest to desire something ; if not to-day, then to- 
morrow, or the next day or the next ? ** Still Ralph 
spake no word; but he wept Quoth Richard: 
" Maybe I may help thee to a hope, though thou 
mayest think my words wild. In the land and the 
thorp where I was born and bred there was talk now 
and again of a thing to be sought, which should cure 
sorrow, and make life blossom in the old, and uphold 
life in the young." " Yea," said Ralph, looking up from 
his tears, " and what was that ? and why hast thou 
never told me thereof before ? " " Nay/' said Richardi 
" and why should I tell it to the merry lad I knew in 
Upmeads ? but now thou art a man, and hast seen the 
face of sorrow, it is meet that thou shouldest hear of 
THE WELL AT THE WORLD'S END." 

Ralph sprang to his feet as he said the word, and 
cried out eagerly : " Old friend, and where then wert 
thou bred and born ? " Richard laughed and said : 

240 



" See^ then, there is yet a deed and a day betwixt thee 
and death ! But turn about and look straight over 
the meadows in a line with yonder willow-tree, and 
tell me what thou seest." Said Ralph : " The fair 
plain spreading wide, and a river running through it, 
and little hills beyond the water, and blue mountuns 
beyond them, and snow yet lying on the tops of them, 
though the year is in young July." ^* Yea," quoth 
Richard ; *^ and seest thou on the first of die little 
hills beyond the river, a great grey tower rising up 
and houses anigh it?" *«Yea," said Ralph, ''the 
tower I see^ and the houses, for I am far-sighted ; but 
the houses are small." ^So it is," ssud Richard; 
^ now yonder tower is of the Church of Swevenham, 
which is under the invocation of the Seven keepers 
of Ephesus; and the houses are the houses of the 
little town. And what has that to do with me ? sayest 
thou : why this, that I was bom and bred at Sweven- 
ham. And indeed I it was who brought my lord 
Blaise here to Whitwall, with tales of how good a 
place it was for chaffer, that I might see the little 
town and the great grey tower once more. Forsooth 
I lied not, for thy brother is happy here, whereas he 
is piling up the coins one upon the other. Forsooth 
thou shouldest go into his booth, fair lord ; it is a 
goodly sight" 

. But Ralph was walking to and fro hastily, and he 
turned to Richard and said : " Well, well I but why 
dost thou not tell me more of the Well at the World's 
End?" 

Sdd Richard: ^*I was going to tell thee some- 
what which might be worth thy noting; or might 
not be worth it : hearken ! When I dwelt at Sweven- 
ham over yonder, and was but of eighteen winters, 
who am now of three score and eight, three folk of 
our township, two young men and one young woman, 
set out thence to seek the said Well : and much lore 

241 ft 



they had concerning it, which they had learned of an 
old man, a nigh kinsman of one of them. This 
ancient carle I had never seen, for he dwelt in Ac 
mountains a way off, and these men were some five 
years older than I, so that I was a boy when they were 
men grown ; and such things I heeded not, but rather . 
sport and play ; and above all, I longed for the play 
of war and battle. God wot I have had my bellyfiil 
of it since those days ! Howbeit I mind me the setting 
forth of these three. They had a sumpter-ass vnA 
them for their livelihood on the waste ; but they went 
afoot crowned with flowers, and the pipe and labour 
playing before them, and much people brought them 
on the way. By St. Christopher ! I can see it all as 
if it were yesterday. I was sorry of the departure of 
the damsel ; for though I was a boy I had loved her, 
and she had suffered me to kiss her and toy with her; 
but it was soon over. Now I call to mind that thejr 
had prayed our priest, Sir Cyprian, to bless them on 
their departure, but he naysaid them; for he hdd 
that such a quest came, of the inspiration of the de^b, 
and was but a memory of the customs of the ancient 
gentiles and heathen. But as to me, I deemed it naught, 
and was sorry that my white-bosomed, sweet-breadied 
friend should walk away from me thus intathe clouds.*' 

" What came of it ? " said Ralph, ** did they come 
back, or any of them ? " ** I wot not,*' said Richard, 
** for I was weary of Swevenham after that, so I 
girt myself to a sword and laid a spear upon my shoul- 
der and went my ways to the Castle of the Waste 
March, sixty miles from Swevenham town, and the 
Baron took me in and made me his man : and almost 
as little profit were in my telling thee again of my 
deeds there, as there was in my doing them : but 
the grey tower of Swevenham I have never seen again 
till this hour." 

Said Ralph : " Now then it behoveth me to go to 

242 



Swevenham straightway : wilt thou come with me ? 
it seemeth to be but some four miles hence." 

Richard held his peace and knit his brows as if 
pondering the matter^ and Ralph abided till he spake: 
so he said : '^ Foster-son, so to call thee, thou knowest 
the manner of up-country carles, that tales flow forth 
from them the better if they come without over much 
digging and hoeing of the ground ; that is, without 
questioning ; so meseems better it will be if I go to 
Swevenham alone, and better if I be asked to go, than 
if I go of myself. Now to-morrow is Saturday,and high 
market in Whitwall ; and I am not so old but that it is 
likeliest that there will be some of my fellows alive and 
on their legs in Swevenham : and if such there be, there 
will be one at the least in the market to-morrow, and I 
will be there to find him out : and then it will so hard 
if he bring me not to Swevenham as a well-beloved 
guest ; and when I am there, and telling my tidings, 
and asking them of theirs, if there be any tales con- 
cerning the Well at the World's End working in their 
bellies, then shall I be the midwife to bring them to 
birth. Ha? WUlitdo?" 

«« Yea," said Ralph,** but how long wilt thou be ? " 
Said Richard : ** I shall come back speedily if I find 
the land barren; but if the field be in ear I shall tarry 
to harvest it. So keep thou thy soul in patience." ^*And 
what shall I do now ? " ssud Ralph. ** Wear away the 
hours," said Richard. And to begin with, come back 
within gates with me and let us go look at thy brother's 
booth in the market-place : it is the nethermost of a 
goodly house which he is minded to dwell in ; and he 
will marry a wife and sit down in Whitwall, so well 
he seemeth like to thrive ; for they have already bidden 
him to the freedom of the city, and to be a brother of 
the Faring-Knights, whereas he is not only a stirring 
man, but of go<>d tineage also : for now he hideth not 
that he is of the Upmeads kindred" 

243 



CHAPTER XIV. RALPH FALLETH IN WITH 
ANOTHER OLD FRIEND. 

RALPH went with Richard now without moit 
words, and they came into the market-place 
and unto Blaise's booth and house, which was 
no worse than the best in the place ; and the punters 
and stainers were at work on the upper part of it to 
make it as bright and goodly as might be with red and 
blue and green and gold, and all fair colours, and 
already was there a sign hung out of the fhiitful tree 
by the water-side. As for the booth, it was full 
within of many wares and far-fetched and dear-boudit 
things ; as pieces of good and fine cloth plumbed with 
the seal or the greatest of the cities; and silk of 
Babylon, and spices of the hot burning islands,and won- 
ders of the silversmith's and the goldsmith's fashioning, 
and fair-wrought weapons and armour of the best, and 
every thing that a rich chapman may deal in. And 
amidst of it all stood Blsuse clad in fine black doth 
welted with needle work, and a gold chain about his 
neck. He was talking with three honourable men of 
the Port, and they were doing him honour with kind 
words and the bidding of help. When he saw Ralph 
and Richard come in, he nodded to them, as to men 
whom he loved, but were beneath him in dignity, and 
left not talking with the great men. Richard grinned 
a little thereat, as also did Ralph in his heart ; for he 
thought : ** Here then is one of the Upmeads kin pro- 
vided for, so that soon he may buy with his money 
two domains as big as Upmeads and call them his 



manors." 



Now Ralph looks about him, and presently he 
a man come forward to meet him from the innermost 
of the booth, and lo ! there was come Clement Chap- 
man. His heart rose at the sight of him, and he 
thought of his kind gossip till he could scarce withhold 

244 



his tears. But Clement came to him and cast his 
arms about him^ and kissed him^ and said : '^ Thou 
shalt pardon me for this^ lord, for it is the kiss of 
the gossip which she bade me give thee, if I fell in 
with thee, as now I have, praised be the Saints ! Yet 
it irks me that I shall see little more of thee at this 
time, for to-morrow early I must needs join myself to 
my company ; for we are going south awhile to a good 
town some fifty miles hence. Nevertheless, if thou 
dwellest here some eight days I shall see thee again 
belike, since thereafter I get me eastward on a hard 
and long journey not without peril. How sayest 

^I wot not," quoth Ralph looking at Richard, 
Said Richard: *^ Thou mayst wot well, master Clement, 
that my lord is anhungered of the praise of the folks, 
and is not like to abide in a mere merchant-town till 
the mould grow on his back." ** Well, well," said 
Clemen^ *' however that may be, I have now done my 
matters with this cloth-lord, Blaise, and he has my 
florins in his pouch : so will not ye twain come with 
me and drink a cup till he hath done his talk with 
these magnates ? " 

Ralph was nothing loth, for besides that he loved 
master Clement, and that his being in company was 
like having a piece of his home anigh him, he hoped 
to hear some tidings concerning the Well at the 
World's End. 

So he and Richard went with master Clement to the 
Christopher, a fair ale-house over against the Great 
Church, and sat down to good wine ; and Ralph asked 
of Clement many things concerning dame Katherine his 
gossip, and Clement told him all, and that she was well, 
and had been to Upmeads, and had seen King Peter 
and the mother of Ralph ; and how she had assuaged 
his mother's grief at his departure by forecasting fair 
days for her son. All this Ralph heard gladly, though 

245 



he was somewhat shamefaced withal, and sat ^ent and 
thinking of many matters. But Richard took up the 
word and said : ** Which way camest thou from Wul- 
stead, master Clement ? ** " The nighest way I came/' 
said Clement, ** through the Wood Perilous." Said 
Richard : ** And they of the Dry Tree, heardest 
thou aught of them ? " " Yea, certes," quoth Clement, 
*' for I rell in with their Bailiff, and paid him due scot 
for the passage of the Wood ; he knoweth mc withal, 
and we talked together." ** And had he any tidings 
to tell thee of the champions ? " said Richanl. Said 
Clement, ^^ Great tidings maybe, how that there was a 
rumour that they had lost their young Queen and 
Lady ; and if that be true, it will go nigh to break 
their hearts, so sore as they loved her. And that irfll 
make them bitter and fierce, till their grief has been 
slaked by the blood of men. And that the more as 
their old Queen abideth still, and she herself is ever of 
that mind." 

Ralph hearkened, and his heart was wounded that 
other men should speak of his beloved : but he heard 
how Richard said : ** Hast thou ever known why that 
company of champions took the name of the Dry 
Tree ? " ** Why, who should know that, if thou knowest 
it not, Richard of Swevenham ? " said Clement : ** Is 
it not by the token of the Dry Tree that standeth in 
the lands on the hither side of the Wall of the World ? " 
Richard nodded his head ; but Ralph cried out : ^' O 
. Master Clement, and hast thou seen it, the Wall of 
the World ?" " Yea, afar off, my son," said he ; **or 
what the folk with me called so ; as to the Dry Tree, 
I have told thee at Wulstead that I have seen it not, 
though I have known men who have told me that they 
have seen it." " And must they who find the Well 
at the World's End come by the Dry Tree ?" " Yea, 
surely," said Clement. Quoth Richard : " And thus 
have some heard, who have gone on that quest, and 

246 



they have heard of the Champions of Hampton^ and 
have gone thither, being deceived by that name of the 
Dry Tree, and whiles have been slain by the champions, 
whiles have entered their company." ** Yea," said 
Clement, " so it is that their first error hath ended their 
quest. But now, lord Ralph, I will tell thee one thing ; 
to wit, that when I return hither after eight days 
wearing, I shall be wending east, as I said e'en now, 
and what will that mean save going somewhat nigher 
to the Wall of the World ; for my way licth beyond 
the mountains that ye see from hence, and beyond 
the mountains that lie the other side of those ; and I 
bid thee come with us, and I will be thy warrant that 
so far thou shalt have no harm : but when thou hast 
come so far, and hast seen three very fair cities, 
besides towns and castles and thorps and strange men, 
and fair merchandize, God forbid that thou shouldest 
wend further, and so cast away thy young life for 
a gay-coloured cloud. Then will be the time to come 
back with me, that I may bring thee through the perils 
of the way to Wulstead, and Upmeads at the last, 
and the folk that love thee." 

Richard held his peace at this word, but Ralph 
said : " I thank thee. Master Clement, for thy love 
and thy helping hand ; and will promise thee to abide 
thee here eight days at the least ; and meanwhile I 
will ponder the matter well." 

CHAPTER XV. RALPH DREAMS A DREAM 
OR SEES A VISION. 

THEREWITHAL they parted after more talk 
concerning small matters, and Ralph wore 
through the day, but Richard again did him 
to wit, that on the morrow he would find his old 
friends of Swevenham in the Market. And Ralph 
was come to life again more than he had been since 

247 



that evil hour in the desert ; though hard and hard 
he deemed it that he should never see his love again. 

Now as befalleth young men, he was a good 
sleeper, and dreamed but seldom, save such light and 
empty dreams as he might laugh at, if perchance he 
remembered them by then his raiment was on him in 
the morning. But that night himseemed that be 
awoke in his chamber at Whitwall, and was lying on 
his bed, as he verily was, and the door of the chamber 
opened, and there entered quietly the Lady of the 
Woodland, dight even as he had seen her as she lay 
dead beside their cooking fire on that table of 
greensward in the wilderness, barefoot and garlanded 
about her brow and her girdlestead, but ^r and fresh 
coloured as she was before the sword had pierced her 
side ; and he thought that he rejoiced to see her, but 
no wild hope rose in his heart, and no sobbing passioa 
bUnded his eyes, nor did he stretch out hand to touch 
her, because he remembered that she was dead. But 
he thought she spake to him and said : '* I know that 
thou wouldst have me speak, therefore I say that I am 
come to bid thee farewell, since there was no farewell 
between us in the wilderness, and I know that thou 
art about going on a long and hard and perilous 
journey: and I would that I could kiss thee and 
embrace thee, but I may not, for this is but the 
image of me as thou hast known me. Furthermore^ 
as I loved thee when I saw thee first, for thy youth, 
and thy fairness, and thy kindness and thy vaUancv, 
so now I rejoice that all this shall endure so long m 
thee, as it surely shall." 

Then the voice ceased, but still the image stood 
before him awhile, and he wondered if she would 
speak again, and tell him aught of the way to the 
Well at the World's End; and she spake again: 
** Nay," she said, " I cannot, since we may not tread 
the way together hand in hand ; and this is a part of 

248 



the loss that thou hast had of me ; and oh ! but it is 
hard and hard/' And her face became sad and dis- 
tressful^ and she turned and departed as she had come. 

Then he knew not if he awoke, or if it were a 
change in his dream ; but the chamber became dark 
about him, and he lay there thinking of her, till, as it 
seemed, day began to dawn^ and there was some little 
stir in the world without, and the new wind moved 
the casement. And again the door opened, and some- 
one entered as before ; and this also was a woman : 
green-dad she was and barefoot, yet he knew at once 
that it was not his love that was dead, but the damsel of 
the ale-house of Bourton, whom he had last seen by the 
wantways of the Wood Perilous, and he thought her 
wondrous fair, fairer than he had deemed. And the 
word came from her : '' I am a sending of the woman 
whom thou hast loved, and I should not have been 
here save she had sent me." Then the words ended, 
while he looked at her and wondered if she also had 
died on the way to the Well at the World's End. 
And it came into his mind that he had never known her 
name upon the earth. Then again came the word : 
*' So it is that I am not dead but alive in the world, 
though I am far away from this land ; and it is good 
that thou shouldstgo seek the Well at the World's End 
not all alone : and the seeker may find me : and whereas 
thou wouldst know my name, I hight Dorothea." 

So fell the words again: and this image stood 
awhile as the other had done, and as the other had 
done, departed, and once more the chamber became 
dark, so that Ralph could not so much as see where 
was the window, and he knew no more till he woke 
in the early mom, and there was stir in the street and 
the voice of men, and the scent of fresh herbs and 
worts^ and fruits; for it was market-day, and the 
country folk were early afoot, that they might array 
their wares timely in the market-place. 

249 



CHAPTER XVI. OF THE TALES OF SWEr 

VENHAM. 

OLD Richard was no worse than his word, and 
failed not to find old acquaintance of Sweven- 
ham in the Saturday's market : and Ralph saw 
naught of him till midweek afterwards. And he was 
sitting in the chamber of the hostel when Richard 
came in to him. Forsooth Blaise had bidden him 
come dwell in his fair house, but Ralph would not, 
deeming that he might be hindered in his quest and be 
less free to go whereso he would, if he were dwelling 
with one who was so great with the magnates tt was 
Blaise. 

Now Ralph was reading in a book when Richaixi 
came in, but he stood up and greeted him ; and Richard 
said smiling: ^^What have ye found in the book, 
lord ? " Said Ralph : '' It telleth of the deeds of 
Alexander.'' *^ Is there aught concerning the Well 
at the World's End therein ? " said Richard. ** I have 
not found aught thereof as ye^" said Ralph ; ^' but the 
book tells concerning the Dry Tree, and of kings 
sitting in their chairs in the mountains nearby." 

*' Well then," said Richard, ** maybe thou wilt think 
me the better tale-teller." " Tell on then," quoth 
Richard. So they went and sat them down in a window, 
and Richard said : 

" When I came to Swevenham with two old men 
that I had known young, the folk made much of me, 
and made me good cheer, whereof were over long to 
tell thee ; but to speak shortly, I drew the talk round 
to the matter that we would wot of: for we spake of 
the Men of the Dry Tree, and an old man began to 
say, as master Clement the other day, that this name 
of theirs was but a token and an armoury which those 
champions have taken from the Tree itself, which 
Alexander the Champion saw in his wayfarings ; and 

250 



he said that this tree was on the hither side of the 
mountains called the Wall of the World, and no great 
way from the last of the towns whereto Clement will 
wend ; for Clement told me the name thereof^ to wit, 
Goldburg. Then another and an older man, one that 
I remember a stout carle ere I left Swevenham, said 
that this was not so,but that the Tree was on the further 
side of the Wallof the World, and that he who could lay 
his hand on the bole thereof was like enough to drink 
of the Well at the World's End. Thereafter another 
spake, and told a tale of how the champions at 
Hampton first took the Dry Tree for a token ; and 
he said that the rumour ran, that a woman had brought 
the tidings thereof to those valiant men, and had fixed 
the name upon them, though wherefore none knew. 
So the talk went on. 

^ Bat there was a carline sittine in the ingle, and 
she knew me uid I her. And indeed in days past, 
wheni was restless and loneingto dqpart,ihc might have 
held me at Swevenham, tor she was one of the friends 
that I loved there : a word and a kiss had done it, or 
maybe the kiss without the word : but if I had the 
word, I had not the kiss of her. Well, when the talk 
began to fall, she spake and said to me : 

^ ' Now it is somewhat strange that the talk must 
needs fall on this seeking of that which shall not be 
found, whereas it was but the month before thou wert 
last at Swevenham, that Wat Miller and Simon Bowyer 
set oflF to seek the Well at the World's End, and took 
with them Alice of Queenhough, whom Simon loved 
as well as might be, and Wat somewhat more than 
well. Mindest thou not? There are more than I 
alive that remember it.' 

" * Yea,' said I, * I remember it well.' 

^ For indeed, foster-son, these were the very three of 
whom I told thee, though I told thee not their names. 

« « Well,' said I ; * how sped they ? Came they 

251 



back, or any of them ? ' ^ Nay/ she said, ' that were 
scarce to be looked for/ Said I : * Have any other to 
thy knowledge gone on this said quest ? ' 

<' ^ Yea/ she ssud, ' I will tell thee all about it^ and 
then there will be an end of the story, for none 
knoweth better thereof than I. First there was that 
old man, the wizard, to whom folk from Swevenham 
and other places about were used to seek for hb lore 
in hidden matters ; and some months after those three 
had departed, folk who went to hb abode amongst the 
mountains found him not; and soon the word was 
about that he also, for as feeble jas he was, had gone 
to seek the Well at the World's End ; though may- 
happen it was not so. Then the next sprii^ after thy 
departure, Richard, comes home Arnold Wncht from 
the wars, and asks after Alice ; and when he heard 
what had befallen, he takes a scrip with a little meat 
for the road, lays his spear on jfiis shoulder, and is 
gone seeking the lost, and the thing which they found 
not — that, I deem, was the end of hioL Agdn the 
year after that, as I deem, three of our carles fell in 
with two knights riding east from Whitwall, and were 
questioned of them concerning the road to the said 
Well, and doubted not but that they were on that 
quest. Furthermore (and some of you wot this well 
enough, and more belike know it not) two of our 
young men were faring by night and cloud on some 
errand, ^ood or bad, it matters not, on the highway 
thirty miles east of Whitwall : it was after harvest, and 
the stubble-fields lay on either side of the way, and 
the moon was behind thin clouds, so that it was light 
on the way, as they told me ; and they saw a woman 
wending before them afoot, and as they came up with 
her, the moon ran out, and they saw that the woman 
was fair, and that about her neck was a chaplet of 
gems that shone in the moon, and they had a longing 
both for the jewel and the woman : but bjcfore they 

252 



laid hand on her they asked her of whence and whither^ 
and she said : From ruin and wrack to the Well at 
the World's End, and therewith turned on them with 
a naked sword in her hand ; so that they shrank from 
before her. 

^ * Hearken once more : the next year came a knight 
to Swevenham, and guested in this same house, and he 
sat just where sitteth now yon yellow-headed swain, 
ana the talk went on the same road as it hath gone 
to-night ; and I told him all the tale as I have said it 
e'en now ; and he asked many questions, but most of 
the Lady with the pair of beads. And on the morrow 
he departed and we saw him not again. 

^^ Then she was silent, but the yoimg man at whom 
she had pointed flushed red and stared at her wide- 
eyed, but said no word. But I spake : ^ Well dame, 
but have none else gone from Swevenham, or what 
hath befallen them ? ' 

** She said : * Hearken yet ! Twenty years agone a 
great sickness lay heavy upon us and the folk of Whit- 
wall, and when it was at its worst, five of our young 
men, calling to mind all the tales concerning the WeU 
at the World's End, went their ways to seek i^ and 
swore that back would they never, save they found it 
and could bear of its water to the folk of Swevenham ; 
and I suppose they kept their oath ; for we saw naught 
either or the water or of them. Well, I deem that this 
is the last that I have to tell thee, Richard, concerning 
this matter : and now is come the time for thee to tell 
tales of thyself.' 

" Thus for that time dropped the talk of the Well 
at the World's End, Lord Ralph, and of the way 
thither. But I hung about the township yet a while, 
and yesterday as I stood on their stone bridge, and 
looked on the water, up comes that long lad with the 
yellow hair that the dame had pointed at, and says to 
me: ^ Master Richard, saving thine age and thy dignity 

253 



and mastery, I can join an end to the tale which the 
carline began on Sunday nieht' ^ Yea, forsooth ? ' said 
I3 and how, my lad ? ' Said he : * Thou hast a goodhr 
knife there in thy girdle, give it to me, and I will tell 
thee/ * Yea/ quoth I, * if thy tale be knife-worthy/ 

" Well, the end of it was that he told me thus : 
That by night and moon he came on one riding the 
highway, just about where the other woman had been 
seen, whose tale he had heard of. He deemed at first 
this rider to be a man, or a lad rather for smallness 
and slendemesS) but coming close up he found it was 
a woman, and saw on her neck a chaplet of gems, and 
deemed it no great feat to take it of her : but he 
asked her of whence and whither, and she answered : 

« * From unrest to the Well at the World's End/ 

^^ Then when he put out his hand to her, he saw a 
great anlace gleaming in her hand, wherefore he for- 
bore her ; and this was but five days ago. 

*' So I eave the lad my knife, and deemed there 
would be Tittle else to hear in Swevenham for this 
bout ; and at least I heard no more tales to tell till I 
came away this morning ; so there is my poke turned 
inside out for thee. But this word further would I 
say to thee, that I have seen on thy neck also a pair 
of beads exceeding goodly. Tell me now whence 
came they." 

" From my gossip, dame Katherine," said Ralph ; 
and it seems to me now, though at the time I heeded 
the gift little save for its kindness, that she thought 
something great might go with it ; and there was a 
monk at Higham on the Way, who sorely longed to 
have it of me." " Well," said Richard, " that may 
well come to pass, that it shall lead thee to the Well 
at the World's End. But as to the tales of Sweven- 
ham, what deemest thou of them ? " Said Ralph : 
** What are they, save a token that folk believe that 
there is such a thing on earth as the Well ? Yet I 

^54 



have made up my mind already that I would so do as 
if I trowed in it. So I am no nearer to it than erst. 
Now is there naught for it save to abide Master 
Clement's coming ; and when he hath brought me to 
Goldburg, then shall I see how the quest looks by 
the daylight of that same city." He spake so cheer- 
fully that Richard looked at him askance, wondering 
what was toward with him^ and if mayhappen any- 
thing lay underneath those words of his. 

But in his heart Ralph was thinking of that last 
tale of the woman whom the young man had met 
such a little while ago ; and it seemed to him that she 
must have been in Whitwall when he first came 
there ; and he scarce knew whether he were sorry or 
not that he had missed her : for though it seemed to 
him that it would be little more than mere grief and 
pain, nay, that it would be wicked and evil to be led 
to the Well at the World's End by any other than 
her who was to have brought him there; yet he 
longed, or thought he longed to speak with her con- 
cerning that love of his heart, so early rewarded, so 
speedily beggared. For indeed he doubted not that 
the said woman was the damsel of Bourton Abbas, 
whose image had named herself Dorothea to him in 
that dream. 



CHAPTER XVII. RICHARD BRINGETH TID- 
INGS OF DEPARTING. 

FELL the talk between them at that time, and 
three days wore, and on the morning of the 
fourth day came Richard to Ralph, and said to 
him : " Foster-son, I am sorry for the word I must say, 
but Clement Chapman came within gates this morning 
early, and the company with which he is riding are 
alboun for the road, and will depart at noon to-day, 
so that there are but four hours wherein we twain 

^S5 



may be together ; and thereafter whatso may betide 
thee^ it may well be^ that I shall see thy face no 
more ; so what thou wilt tell me must be told straight- 
way. And now I will say this to thee^ that of all 
things I were fain to ride with thee^ but I may not, 
because it is Blaise whom I am bound to serve in all 
ways. And I deem, moreover, that troublous times 
may be at hand here in Whitwall. For there is an 
Earl hight Walter the Black, a fair young man out- 
wardly, but false at heart and a tyrant, and he had 
some occasion against the good town, and it was 
looked for that he should send his herald here to defy 
the Port more than a half moon ago ; but about that 
time he was hurt in a fny as we hear^ and may not 
back a horse in battle yet. Albeit^ fristed is not for- 
gotten, as saith the saw ; and when he is whole agun, 
we may look for him at our gates; and whereas 
Blaise knows me for a deft man-at-arms or something 
more, it is not to be looked for that he will give me 
to thee for this quest. Nay, of thee also it vnH be 
looked for that tnou shouldest do knightly service to 
the Port, and even so Blaise means it to be ; therefore 
have I lied to him on thy behalf, and bidden Clement 
also to lie (which forsooth he may do better than I, 
since he wotteth not wholly whither thou art minded), 
and I have said thou wouldst go with Clement no 
further than Cheaping Knowe, which lieth close to 
the further side of these mountains, and will be back 
again in somewhat more than a half-moon's wearing. 
So now thou art warned hereof." 

Ralph was moved by these words of Richard, and 
he spake : '* Forsooth, old friend, I am sorry to depart 
from thee ; yet though I shall presently be all alone 
amongst aliens, yet now is manhood risirig again in 
me. So for that cause at least shall I be glad to be 
on the^way; and as a token that I am more whole 
than I was, I will now tell thee the tale of my grief^ if 

256 



thou wilt hearken to it, which the other day I might 
not tell thee/' 

^I will hearken it gladly/' said Richard. And 
therewith they sat down in a window, for they were 
within doors in the hostel, and Ralph told all that had 
befallen him as plainly and shortly as he might ; and 
when he had done, Richard said : 

^^ Thou hast had much adventure in a short space, 
lord, and if thou mightest now refr^n thy longing for 
that which is gone, and set it on that which is to 
come, thou mayest yet harden into a famous knight 
and a happy man." Said Ralph: ^^Yea? now tell 
me all thy thought.'* 

Said Richard: ^^ My thought is that this lady who 
was slain, was scarce wholly of the race of Adam ; but 
that at the least there was some blending in her of the 
blood of the fays. Or how deemest thou ? " 

*^ I wot not," said Ralph sadly ; ^' to me she seemed 
but a woman, though sne were fairer and wiser than 
other women." Said Richard: *' Well, furthermore, 
if I heard thee arieht, there is another woman in the 
tale who is also fairer and wiser than other women ? " 

" I would she were my sister ! " said Ralph. " Yea," 
quoth Richard, *^ and dost thou bear in mind what she 
was like ? I mean the fashion of her body." ^' Yea, 
verily," said Ralph. 

Again said Richard : ^^ Doth it seem to thee as if 
the Lady of the Dry Tree had some inkling that thou 
shouldst happen upon this other woman : whereas she 
showed her of the road to the Well at the World's 
End, and gave her that pair of beads, and meant that 
thou also shouldest go thither ? And thou sayest that 
she praised her, — her beauty and wisdom. In what 
wise did she praise her ? how came the words forth 
from her ? was it sweetly ? " 

^^ Like honey and roses for sweetness," said Ralph. 
^ Yea," said Richard, *^ and she might have praised 

257 ' 



her in such wise that the words had came forth like 
gall and vinegar. Now I will tell thee of my thought, 
since we be at point of sundering, though thou take 
it amiss and be wroth with me: to wit, that thou 
wouldst have lost the love of this lady as time wore, 
even had she not been slain : and she being, if no fay, 
yet wiser than other women, and foreseeing, knew that 
so it would be." Ralph brake in : " Nay, nay, it is 
not so, it is not so ! " " Hearken, youngling ! ** quoth 
Richard ; " I deem that it was thus. Her love fiw 
thee was so kind that she would have thee happy after 
the sundering: therefore she was minded that thon 
shouldest find the damsel, who as I deem lovedi thee, 
and that thou shouldest love her truly.'* 

" O nay, nay ! " said Ralph, " all this gue^ of thine 
is naught, saving that she was kind indeed. Even as 
heaven is kind to them who have died martyrs, and 
enter into its bliss after many torments." 

And therewith he fell a-weeping at the very thought 
of her great kindness : for indeed to this young man 
she had seemed great, and exalted far above him. 

Richard looked at him a while; and then said: 
*' Now, I pray thee be not wroth with me for the 
word I have spoken. But something more shall I say, 
which shall like thee better. To wit, when I came 
back from Swevenham on Wednesday I deemed it 
most like that the Well at the World's End was a 
tale, a coloured cloud only ; or that at most if it were 
indeed on the earth, that thou shouldest never find it. 
But now is my mind changed by the hearing of thy tale, 
and I deem both that the Well verily is, and that thou 
thyself shalt find it ; and that the wise Lady knew 
this, and set the greater store by thy youth and good- 
liness, as a richer and more glorious gift than it had 
been, were it as fleeting as such things mostly be. 
Now of this matter will I say no more; but I think 
that the words that I have said, and which now seem 

258 



so vain to thee^ shall come into thy mind on some 
later day, and avaii thee somewhat ; and that is why 
I have spoken them. But this again is another wofd> 
that I have got a right good horse for thee, and other 
gear, such as thou mayest need for the road, and that 
Clement's fellowship will meet in Petergate hard by 
the church, and I will be thy squire till thou comest 
thither, and ridest thence out a-gates. Now I suppose 
that thou will want to bid Bl^se farewell : yet thou 
must look to it that he will not deem thy farewell of 
great moment^ »nce he swimmeth in florins and 
goodly wares ; and moreover deemeth that thou wilt 
soon be back here." 

" Nevertheless," said Ralph, " I must needs cast my 
arms about my own mother's son before I depart : so 
go we now, as all this talk hath worn away more 
than an hour of those four that were left me." 



CHAPTER XVIII. RALPH DEPARTETH 
FROM WHITWALL WITH THE FELLOW- 
SHIP OF CLEMENT CHAPMAN. 

THEREWITHAL they went together to 
Blaise's house, and when Blaise saw them, he 
s^d : ^ Well, Ralph, so thou must needs work 
at a little more idling before thou fallest to in earnest. 
Forsooth I deem tha£ when thou comest back thou 
wilt find that we have cut thee out a goodly piece of 
work for thy sewing. For the good town is gathering 
a gallant host of men ; and we shall look to thee to do 
well in the hard hand-play, whenso that befalleth. 
But now come and look at my house within, how fair 
it is, and thou wilt see that thou wilt have somewhat 
to fight for, whereas I am." 

Therewith he led them up a stair into the great 
chamber, which was all newly dight and hung with 
rich arras of the Story of Hercules ; and there was a 

2S9 



goodly cupboard of silver vessel, and some gold, and 
the cupboard was of five shelves as was but meet for 
a lung's son. So Ralph praised all, but was wishful 
to depart, for his heart was sore, and he blamed him- 
self in a manner that he must needs lie to his brother. 

But Blaise brought them to the upper chamber, and 
showed them the goodly beds with their cloths, and 
hangings, and all was as fair as might be. Then 
Blaise bade bring wine and made them drink ; and he 
gave Ralph a purse of gold, and an anlace very fair 
of fashion, and brought him to the door thernfter; 
and Ralph cast his arms about him, and kissed him 
and str^ned him to his breast. But Blaise was some- 
what moved thereat, and said to him : *^ Why lad, 
thou art sorry to depart from me for a little while, 
and what would it be, were it for long ? But ever 
wert thou a kind and tender-hearted youngling, and 
we twain are alone in an alien land. Forsooth, I wot 
that thou hast, as it were, embraced the Upmeads 
kindred, father, mother and all ; and good is that ! 
So now God and the Saints keep thee, and bear in 
mind the hosting of the good town, and the raising of 
the banner, that shall be in no great while. Fare thee 
well, lad!" 

So they parted, and Ralph went back to the hostel, 
and gathered his stuff together, and laid it on a 
sumpter horse, and armed him, and so went into 
Petergate to join himself to that company. There he 
found the chapmen, five of them in all, and their lads, 
and a score of men-at-arms, with whom was Clement, 
not clad like a merchant, but weaponed, and bearing 
a coat of proof and a bright sallet on his head. 

They greeted each the other, and Ralph said : "Yea, 
master Clement, and be we riding to battle ? " " May- 
be," quoth Clement ; " the way is long, and our goods 
worth the lifting, and there are some rough places 
that we must needs pass through. But if ye like not 

260 



the journey, abide here in this town the onset of 
Walter the Black/' 

Therewith he laughed, and Ralph understanding the 
jape, laughed also ; and said : ^^ Well, master Clement, 
but tell me who be these that we shall meet." ** Yea, 
and I will tell thee the whole tale of them," said 
Clement, ^^ but abide till we are without the gates ; I 
am a busy man e'en now, for all is ready for the road, 
save what I must do. So now bid thy Upmeads squire 
^rewell, and then to horse with thee ! " 

So Ralph cast his arms about Richard, and kissed 
him and said : ^^ This is also a farewell to the House 
where I was born and bred." And as he spake the 
thought of the House and the garden, and the pleasant 
fields of Upmeads came into his heart so bitter-sweet, 
that it mingled with his sorrow, and well-nigh made 
him weep. But as for Richard he forebore words, for 
he was sad at heart for the sundering. 

Then he gat to horse, and the whole company of 
of them bestirred them, and they rode out a-gates. 
And master Clement it was that ordered them, riding 
up and down along the array. 

But Ralph fell to speech with the chapmen and 
men-at-arms ; and both of these were very courteous 
with' him ; for they rejoiced in his company, and 
especially the chapmen, who were somewhat timorous 
of the perils of the road. 

CHAPTER XIX. MASTER CLEMENT 
TELLS RALPH CONCERNING THE LANDS 
WHEREUNTO THEY WERE RIDING. 

WHEN they were gotten a mile or two from 
Whitwall, and all was going smoothly, 
Clement came up to Ralph and rode at his 
left hand, and fell to speech with him, and said: " Now, 
lord, will I tell thee more concerning our journey, and 

261 



the folk that we are like to meet upon the road. And of 
the perils, whatso thejr may be, I told thee not before, 
because I knew thee de^rous of seeking adventures 
east-away, and knew that my tales would not hinder 
thee." 

" Yea,*' said Ralph, ** and had not this goodlv fellow- 
ship been, I had gone alone, or with any carle that I 
could have lightly hired/' 

Clement laughed and said : ^' Fair sir^ thou wouldst 
have failed of hiring any one man to go with thee east- 
ward a many miles. For with less than a score of 
men well-armed the danger of death or captivity b 
over great, if ye ride the mountain ways unto CheajNng 
Knowe. Yea, and even if a poor man who hath notlung, 
wend that way alone, he may well fall among thieves, 
and be stolen himself body and bones, for lack of any- 
thii^ better to steal/' 

Hereat Ralph felt his heart rise, when he th0U|^t 
of battle and strife, and he made his horse to sprmg 
somewhat, and then he said : '^ It liketh me well^ dear 
friend, that I ride not with thee for naught, but that 
I may earn my daily bread like another/' 

" Yea," said Clement, looking on him kindly, *' I 
deem of all thy brethren thou hast the biggest share 
of the blood of Red Robert, who first won Upmeads. 
And now thou shalt know that this good town of 
Whitwall that lieth behind us is the last of the lands 
we shall come to wherein folk can any courtesy, or 
arc ruled by the customs of the manor, or by due 
lawfiil Earls and Kings, or the laws of the Lineage or 
the Port, or have any Guilds for their guiding, and 
helping. And though these folks whereunto we shaD 
come, are, some of them. Christian men by name, and 
have amongst them priests and religious ; yet are they 
wild men of manners, and many heathen customs 
abide amongst them ; as swearing on the altars of 
devils, and eating horse-flesh at the High-tides, and 

262 



spell-raising more than enough, and such like things, 
even to the reddening of the doom-rings with the 
blood of men and of women, yea, and of babes : from 
such things their priests cannot withhold them. As for 
their towns that we shall come to, I say not but we 
shall find crafts amongst them, and worthy good men 
therein, but they have little might against the tyrants 
who reign over the towns, and who are of no great 
kindred, nor of blood better than other folk, but 
merely masterful and wise men who have gained their 
place by cunning and the high hand. Thou shalt see 
castles and fair strong-houses about the country-side, 
but the great men who dwell therein are not the 
natural kindly lords of the land yielding service to 
Earls, Dukes, and Kings, and having under them 
vavassors and villeins, men of the manor ; but their 
tillers and shepherds and workmen and servants be 
mere thralls, whom they may sell at any market, like 
their horses or oxen. Forsooth these great men have 
with them for the more part free men waged for their 
service, who will not hold their hands from aught that 
their master biddeth, not staying to ask if it be lawful 
or unlawful. And that the more because whoso is a 
free man there, house and head must he hold on the 
tenure of bow and sword, and his life is like to be 
short if he hath not sworn himself to the service of 
some tyrant of a castle or a town." 

" Yea, master Clement," said Ralph, " these be no 
peaceful lands whereto thou art bringing us, or very 
pleasant to dwell in." 

" Little for peace, but much for profit," said Clement ; 
" for these lands be fruitful of wine and oil and wheat, 
and neat and sheep; withal metals and gems are dug 
up out of the mountains ; and on the other hand, they 
make but little by craftsmanship, wherefore are they the 
eagerer forchaflFerwithus merchants; whereas also there 
are many of them well able to pay for what they lack, if 

263 



cc 

€C 



not in money, then in kind, which in a way is better. 
Yea, it is a goodly land for merchants." 
But I am no merchant," said Ralph. 
So it is," said Clement, " yet thou desireth some- 
thing ; and whither we are wending thou mayst hear 
tidings that shall please thee, or tidings that shall 
please me. To say sooth, these two may well be 
adverse to each other, for I would not have thee hear 
so much of tidings as shall lead thee on, but rather I 
would have thee return with me, and not throw thy 
young life away : for indeed I have an inkling of whi^ 
thou seekest, and meseems that Deadi and the Devil 
shall be thy faring-fellows." 

Ralph held his peace, and Clement said in a cheer- 
fuller voice : " Moreover, there shall be strange and 
goodly things to see ; and the men of these parts be 
mostly goodly of body, and the women goodlier yet, 
as we carles deem." 

Ralph sighed, and answered not at once, but presently 
he said : '* Master Clement, canst thou give me the order 
of our goings for these next days ? " ** Yea,certes," said 
Clement. " In three days' time we shall come to the 
entry of the fountains : two days thence we shall go 
without coming under any roof save the naked heavens; 
the day thereafter shall we come to the Mid-Mountain 
House, which is as it were an hostelry ; but it was 
built and is upheld by the folks that dwell anigh, 
amongst whom be the folk of Cheaping Knowe ; and 
that house is hallowed unto truce, and no man smiteth 
another therein ; so that we oft come on the mountain 
strong-thieves there, and there we be blithe together 
and feast together in good fellowship. But when there 
be foemen in that house together, each man or each 
fellowship departing, hath grace of an hour before his 
foeman follow. Such are the customs of that house, 
and no man breaketh them ever. But when we depart 
thence we shall ride all day and sleep amidst the 

264 



mountains, and if we be not beset that night or the 
morrow's morn thereof, safe and unfoughten shall we 
come to Cheaping Knowe. Doth that suffice thee as 
at this time ? " " Yea master," quoth Ralph. 

So therewith their talk dropped, for the moment ; 
but Clement talked much with Ralph that day, and 
honoured him much, as did all that company. 

CHAPTER XX. THEY COME TO THE MID- 
MOUNTAIN GUEST-HOUSE. 

ON that night they slept in their tents which they 
had pitched on the field of a little thorp beside 
a water ; and there they had meat and drink 
and all things as they needed them. And in likewise 
it befell them the next day ; but the third evening they 
set up their tents on a little hillside by a road which 
led into a deep pass, even the entry of the mountains, ^ 
road which went betwixt exceeding high walls of rock. 
For the mountain sides went up steep from the pl^n. 
There they kept good watch and ward, and naught 
befell them to tell of. 

The next morning they entered the pass, and 
rode through it up on to the heaths, and rode all 
day by wild and stony ways and came at even to 
a grassy valley watered by a little stream, where they 
guested, watching their camp well ; and again none 
meddled with them. 

As they were departing the next mom Ralph asked 
of Clement if he yet looked for onset from the way- 
layers. Said Clement: *' It is most like, lord ; for we 
be a rich prey, and it is but seldom that such a com- 
pany ridcth this road. And albeit that the wild men 
know not to a day when we shall pass through their 
country, yet they know the time within a four and 
twenty hours or so. For we may not hide our 
journey from all men's hearing ; and when the ear 
hcareth, the tongue waggeth. But art thou yet anxious 

265' 



€C 
<C ' 



concerning this matter, son ? '* " Yea/* said Ralph, 
" for I would fain look on these miscreants." 

It is like that ye shall see them/' said Clement; 

but I shall look on it as a token that they are about 
waylaying us if we come on none of them in the 
Mountain House. For they will be fearful Jest their 
purpose leak out from unwary lips/' Ralph wondered 
how it would be, and what might come of it, and rode 
on, pondering much. 

The road was rough that day, and they went not above 
a foot-pace the more part of the time ; and daylong 
they were going up and up, and it grew cold as the sun 
got low ; though it was yet summer. At last at the top 
of a long stony ridge, which lay beneath a great spread- 
ing mountain, on the crest whereof the snow lay in 
plenty, Ralph saw a house, long and low, builded of 
great stones, both walls and roof : at sight thereof the 
men of the fellowship shouted for joy, and hastened on, 
and Clement spurred up the stony slopes ail he might. 
But Ralph rode slowly, since he had naught to see to, 
save himself, so that he was presently left alone. Now 
he looks aside, and sees something bright-hued l3nng 
under a big stone where the last rays of the sun just 
caught some corner of it. So he goes thither, deem- 
ing that mayhappen one of the company had dropped 
something, pouch or clout, or what not, in his haste 
and hurry. He got off his horse to pick it up, and 
when he had laid hand on it found it to be a hands- 
breadth of fine green cloth embroidered with flowers. 
He held it in his hand a while wondering where he 
could have seen such like stuff before, that it should 
smite a pang into his heart, and suddenly called to 
mind the little hall at Bourton Abbas with the oaken 
benches and the rush-strewn floor, and this same flower- 
broidered green cloth dancing about the naked feet of 
a fair damsel, as she moved nimbly hither and thither 
dighting him his bever. But his thought stayed not 

266 



there^ but carried him into the days when he was 
abiding in desire of the love that he won at last, and 
lost so speedily. But as he stood pondering he heard 
Clement shouting to him from the garth-gate of that 
house. So he leapt on his horse and rode up the slope 
into the garth and lighted down by Clement ; who fell 
to chiding him for tarrying, and said: ^ There is 
peril in loitering outside this garth alone; for those 
Sons of the Rope often lurk hard by for what they 
may easily pick up, and they be brisk and nimble 
lads." " What ailed thee ? " said Ralph. " I stayed 
to look at a flower which called Upmeads to my 
mind." 

" Yea lad, yea," quoth Clement, ** and art thou so 
soft as that ? But come thou into the House ; it is as 
I deemed it might be ; besides the House-warden and 
his wife there is no soul therein. Thou shalt yet look 
on Mick Hangman's sons, as thou desirest" 

So they went into the House, and men had all that 
they might need. The warden was an old hoar man, 
and his wife well-stricken in years ; and after supper 
was talk of this and that, and it fell much, as was like 
to be, on those strong-thieves, and Gement asked the 
warden what he had seen of them of late. 

The old carle answered : *^ Nav, master Qement, 
much according to wont : a few beeves driven into 
our garth ; a pack or two brought into the hall ; and 
whiles one or two of them come in hither with empty 
hands for a sleep and a bellyful ; and again a captive led 
in on the road to the market. Forsooth it is now a good 
few days ago three of them brought in a woman as 
goodly as mine eyes have ever seen ; and she sat on 
the bench yonder, and seemed to heed little that she 
was a captive and had shackles on her feet after the 
custom of these men, though indeed her hands were 
unbound, so that she might eat her meat ; and the 
carle thief told me that he took her but a little way 

267 



from the garth, and that she made a stout defence 
with a sword before they might take her, but being 
taken, she made but little of it." 

** Would he do her any hurt ? " said Ralph. *' Nay, 
surely/' said the carle ; *^ doth a man make a hole in 
a piece of cloth which he is taking to market ? Nay, he 
was courteous to her after his fashion, and bade us give 
her the best of all we had/' 

^^ What like was she ? ** said Ralph. Ssud the cark: 
^^ She was somewhat tall, if I am to note such matten^ 
grey-eyed and brown haired, and great abundance of 
it. Her lips very red ; her cheeks tanned with the 
sun, but in such wise that her own white and red shone 
through the sun's painting, so that her face was as 
sweet as the best wheat-ear in a ten-acre field when the 
season hath been good. Her hands were not like those 
of a demoiselle who sitteth in a chamber to be looked 
at, but brown as of one who hath borne the sicUe in 
the sun. But when she stretched out her hand so that 
the wrist of her came forth from her sleeve it was as 
white as milk." 

** Well, my man," said the carline, " thou hast t 
good memory for an old and outworn carle. Why 
dost thou not tell the young knight what she was clad 
withal ; since save for their raiment all women of an 
age are much alike ? " 

** Nay, do thou do it," said the carle; *' she was 
even as fair as I have said ; so that there be few like 
her." 

Said the dame : '^ Well, there is naught so much to 
be said of her raiment : her gown was green, of fine 
cloth enough ; but not very new : welts of needle-work 
it had on it, and a wreath of needle- work flowers round 
the hem of the skirt ; but a cantle was torn oflT from 
it ; in the scuffle when she was taken, I suppose, so 
that it was somewhat ragged in one place. Further- 



more — " 



268 



She had been looking at Ralph as she spoke^ and 
now she broke off suddenly, and said, still looking at 
him hard ; " Well, it is strange 1 " *' What is strange ? " 
said Clement. *' O naught, naught," said the dame, 
^^ save that folk should make so much to do about 
this matter, when there are so many coming and going 
about the Midhouse of the Mountains." 

But Ralph noted that she was still staring at him 
even after she had let the talk drop. 

Waned the even, and folk began to go bedward, so 
that the hall grew thin of guests. Then came up the 
carline to Ralph and took him aside into a nook, and 
said to him : *^ Young knight, now will I tell thee 
what seemed to me strange e'en now ; to wit, that the 
captive damsel should be bearing a necklace about her 
neck as like to thine as one lamb is to another : but 
I thought thou mightest be liever that I spake it 
not openly before all the other folk. So I held my 
peace." 

" Dame," said he, " I thank thee : forsooth I fear 
sorely that this damsel is my sister ; for ever we have 
worn the samelike pair of beads. And as for me I 
have come hither to find her, and evil will it be if I 
find her enthralled, and it may be past redemption^" 

And therewith he gave her a piece of tne gold 
money of Upmeads. 

^ Yea," said she, " poor youth ; that will be sooth 
indeed, for thou art somewhat like unto her, yet far 
goodlier. But I grieve for thee,and know not what thou 
wilt do ; whereas by this time most like she has been sold 
and bought and is dwelling in some lord's strong-house ; 
some tyrant that needeth not money, and will not let 
his prey go for a prayer. Here, take thou thy gold 
again, for thou mayst well need it, and let me shear a 
lock of thy golden hair, and I shall be well apaid for 
my keeping silence concerning thy love. For I deem 
that it is even so, and that she is not thy sister, else 

7>6^ 



hadst thou stayed at home^ and prayed for her with 
book and priest and altar^ and not gone seeldng her a 
weary way." 

Ralph reddened but said naught, and let her pot 
scizzors amongst his curly locks, and take what of 
them she would. And then he went to his bed^ and 
pondered these matters somewhat, and said to himself 
that it was by this damsel's means that he should find 
the Well at the World's End. Yet he sud also^ dut, 
whether it were so or not, he was bound to seek her, 
and deliver her from thralldom^ ^nce he hid kissed 
her so sweet and fiiendly, like a brother, fot the sweet- 
ness and kindness of her, before he had fallen into the 
love that had brought him such joy and such grief. 
And therewith he took out that piece of her gown 
from his pouch, and it seemed dear to him. But it 
made him think sadly of what grief or pain she nrigfat 
even then be bearings so that he longed to deliver 1^, 
and that longing was sweet to him. In such thoughts 
he fell asleep. 

CHAPTER XXI. A BATTLE IN THE MOUN- 
TAINS. 

WHEN it was morning they arose early and 
ate a morsel ; and Clement gave freely to 
the Warden and his helpmate on behalf of 
the fellowship ; and then they saddled their nags, and 
did on the loads and departed ; and the way was evil 
otherwise,, but it was down hill, and all waters ran 
east. 

All day they rode, and at even when the sun had 
not quite set, they pitched their camp at the foot of a 
round knoll amidst a valley where was water and 
grass ; and looking down thence, they had a sight of 
the fruitful plain, wherein lay Cheaping Knowe all 
goodly blue in the distance. 

ayo 



This was a fair place and a lovely, and great ease 
would they have had there, were it not that they must 
keep watch and ward with more pains than theretofore ; 
for Clement deemed it as good as certain that the wild 
men would fall upon them that night. 

But all was peaceful the night through, and in the 
morning they gat to the way speedily, riding with 
their armour on, and their bows bent : . and three of 
the men-at-arms rode ahead to espy the way. 

So it befell that they had not ridden two hours ere 
back came the fore-riders with the tidings that the 
pass next below them was thick with the Strong- 
thieves. 

The fellowship were as then in such a place, that 
they were riding a high bare ridge, and could not be 
aasailed to the advantage of the thieves if they abode 
where they were ; whereas if they went forward, they 
must needs go down with the road into the dale that 
was beset by the wild men. Now they were three- 
score and two all told, but of these but a score of 
men-at-arms besides Ralph, and Clement, who was a 
stout fighter when need was. Of the others, some 
were but lads, and of the Chapmen were three old 
men, and more than one blencher besides. However, 
all men were armed, and they had many bows, and 
some of the chapmen's knaves were fell archers. 

So they took counsel together, and to some it 
seemed better to abide the onset on their vantage 
ground. But to Clement and the older men-at-arms 
this seemed of no avail. For though they could see the 
plain country down below, they would have no succour 
of it ; and Clement bade them think how the night would 
come at last, and that the longer they abode, the 
greater would be the gathering of the Strong-thieves ; 
so that, all things considered, it were better to fall on 
at once and to try the adventure of the valley. And 
this after some talk they yea-said all, save a few who 

ay I 



held their skins so dear that their wits wandered some- 
what. 

So these timorous ones they bade guard the sumpter 
beasts and their loads ; and even so they did, and abode 
a little, while the men-at-arms and the bowmen went 
forward without more ado ; and Ralph rode betwixt 
Clement and the captain of the men-at-arms. 

Presently they were come close to the place where 
the way went down into the vaUey, cleaving through 
a clayey bent, so that the slippery sides of the ddt 
went up high to right and left ; wherefore by good- 
hap there were no big stones anigh to roll do¥m upon 
them. Moreover the way was short, and they itxle 
six abreast down the pass and were soon through the 
hollow way. As he rode Ralph saw a few of the 
Strong-thieves at the nether end where the pass 
widened out, and they let fly some arrows at the 
chapmen which did no hurt, though some of the 
shafts rattled on the armour of the companions. But 
when Clement saw that folk, and heard the ncHse of 
their shouting he lifted up a great axe that he bore and 
cried, ** St. Agnes for the Mercers ! '' and set spurs to 
his horse. So did they all, and came clattering and 
shouting down the steep road like a stone out of a 
sling, and drave right into the valley one and all, the 
wouldbe laggards following after ; for they were afhud 
to be left behind. 

The wild men, who, save for wide shields which 
they bore, were but evilly armed, mostly in skins of 
beasts, made no countenance of defence, but fled aU 
they might towards the steep slopes of the valley, and 
then turned and fell to shooting ; for the companions 
durst not pursue in haste lest they should be scattered, 
and overwhelmed by the multitude of foemen ; but 
they drew up along the south side of the valley, and 
had the mastery of the road, so that this first bout was 
without blood-shedding. Albeit the thieves still shot 

272 



in their weak bows from the hill-side, but scarce hurt 
a man. Then the bowmen of the fellowship fell to 
shooting at the wild men, while the men-at-arms 
breathed their horses, and the sumpter-beasts were 

fathered together behind them; for they had no 
read of abiding there a while, whereas behind them 
the ground was oroken into a steep shaly cliff, bushed 
here and there with tough bushes, so that no man 
could come up it save by climbing with hand and 
knee, and that not easily. 

Now when the archers had shot a good while, and 
some of the thieves had fallen before them, and men 
were in good heart because of the flight of the wild 
men, Rdph, seeing that these still hung about the 
slopes, cried out : '^ Master Clement, and thou Cap- 
tain, sure it will be ill-done to leave these men un- 
broken behind us, lest they follow us and hang about 
our hindermost, slaying us both men and horses." 

'^ Even so,'' quoth Sit captain, who was a man of 
few words, ^' let us go. But do thou, Clement, abide 
by the stuff with the lads and bowmen." 

Then he cried out aloud : ** St Christopher to aid ! " 
and shook his rein, and all they who were clad in 
armour and well mounted spurred on with him 
against the strong-thieves. But these, when they 
saw the onset of the horsemen, but drew a little up 
the hill-side and stood fast, and some of the horses 
were hurt by their shot. So the captain bade draw 
rein and off horse, while Clement led his bowmen 
nigher, and they shot well together, and hindered the 
thieves from closing round the men-at-arms, or falling 
on the horses. So then the companions went forward 
stoutly on foot, and entered into the battle of the 
thieves, and there was the thrusting and the hewing 
great : for the foemen bore axes, and malls, and spears, 
and were little afraid, having the vantage-ground; 
and they were lithe and strong men, though not tall. 

273 T 



Ralph played manfully, and was hurt by a spear 
above the knee, but not grievously ; so he heeded it 
not, but cleared a space all about him with great 
strokes of the Upmeads' blade ; then as the wild men 
gave back there was one of them who stood lus 
ground and let drive a stroke of a long-handled 
hanuner at him, but Ralph ran in under the stroke 
and caught him by the throat and drew him out of 
the press. And even therewith the wild men broke 
up before the onset of the all-armed carles, and fled 
up the hill, and the men-at-arms followed them but a 
little, for their armour made them unspeedy ; so that 
they took no more of those men, though they slew 
some, but turned about and gathered round Ralph 
and made merry over his catch, for they were Joyous 
with the happy end of battle ; and Clement, who had 
left his bowmen when the Companions were mingled 
with the wild-men, was there amidst the nighesL 

Said Ralph to him : ^ Well, have I not got me 
a servant and thrall good cheap?" ''Yea,'' said 
Clement, ^' if thou deem a polecat a likely hound.** 
Said the Captain : '' Put thy sword through lum, 
knight." Quoth another : " Let him run up hill, and 
our bowmen shall shoot a match at him.** 

" Nay," said Ralph, " they have done well with 
their shooting, let them rest. As to my thrusting 
my sword through the man. Captain, I had done diat 
before, had I been so minded. At any rate, I will 
ask him if he will serve me truly. Otherwise he 
seemeth a strong carle and a handy. How sayest 
thou, lad, did I take thee fairly ? " " Yea,** s^d the 
man, ** thou Art a strong lad." 

He seemed to fear the swords about him but litde, 
and forsooth he was a warrior-like man, and not ill- 
looking. He was of middle height, strong and well* 
knit, with black hair like a beast's mane for shagginess, 
and bright blue eyes. He was clad in a short coat of 

274 



grey homespun, with an ox-3kin habergeon laced up 
over it ; he had neither helm nor hat, nor shoes, but 
hosen made of a woollen clout tied about his legs ; 
his shield of wood and ox-hide lay on the ground a 
few paces off, and his hammer beside it, which he had 
dropped when Ralph first handled him, but a great 
ugly knife was still girt to him. 

Now Ralph sMth to him : ** Which wilt thou — ^be 
slain, or serve mt'i" Said the carle, grinning, yet 
not foully : ^< Guess if I would not rather serve thee ! '* 
" Wilt thou serve me truly ? " said Ralph. " Why 
not ? " quoth the carle : '^ yet I warn thee that if thou 
beat me, save in hot blood, I shall put a knife into 
thee when I may." 

^' O," said one, '* thrust him through now at once, 
lord Ralph." "Nay, I will not," said Ralph; "he 
hath warned me fairly. Maybe he will serve me 
truly. Master Clement, wilt thou lend me a horse 
for my man to ride ? " ** Yea," siud Clement ; " yet I 
misdoubt me of thy new squire." Then he turned to 
the men-at-arms and said : '^ No tarrying, my masters ! 
To horse and away before they gather agvn ! " 

So they mounted and rode away from that valley 
of the pass, and Ralph made his man ride beside him. 
But the man said to him, as soon as they were riding : 
^^ Take note that I will not fight against my kindred." 
^ None biddeth thee so," said Ralph ; ^ but do thou 
take heed that if thou fight against us I will slay thee 
outright" Said the man: "A fair bargain!" "Well," 
said Ralph, " I will have thy knife of thee, lest it 
tempt thee, as is the wont of cold iron, and a maiden's 
body." ** Nay, master," quoth the man, " leave me 
my knife, as thou art a good fellow. In two hours 
time we shall be past all peril of my people, and 
when we come down below I will slay thee as many 
as thou wilt, so it be out of the kindred. Forsooth 
down tJiere evil they be, and unkiosome." 

275 



« So be it, kd," said Ralph, laughing, ** keep thy 
knife ; but hang this word of mine thereon, that u 
thou slay any man of this fellowship save me, I will 
rather flay thee alive than slay thee.'* Quoth the 
carle : " That is the bargain, then, and I yeasay it** 
" Good," said Ralph ; " now tell me thy name." 
" Bull Shockhead," said the carle. 

But now the fellowship took to ridine so fast 
down the slopes of the mountains on a rar better 
road, that talking together was not easy. They kq>t 
good watch, both behind and ahead, nor were they 
set upon again, though wUles they saw clumps of 
men on the hill-sides. 

So after a while, when it was a little past noon, 
they came adown to the lower slopes of the moun- 
tains and the foot-hills, which were green and unstony; 
and thereon were to be seen cattle and neatherds and 
shepherds, and here and there the garth of a home- 
stead, and fenced acres about it 

So now that they were come down into the peopled 
parts, they displayed the banners of their fellowships, 
to wit, the Agnes, the White Fleece, the Christopher, 
and the Ship and Nicholas, which last was the banner 
of the Faring-knights of Whitwall ; but Ralph was 
glad to ride under the banner of St. Nicholas, lus 
friend, and deemed that luck might the rather come 
to him thereby. But they displayed their banners 
now, because they knew that no man of the peopled 
parts would be so hardy as to fall upon the Chapmen, 
of whom they looked to have many matters for thdr 
use and pleasure. 

So now that they felt themselves safe, they stayed 
them, and sat down by a fair little stream, and ate their 
dinner of such meat and drink as they had; and 
Ralph departed his share with his thrall, and the man 
was hungry and ate well ; so that Clement said mock- 
ingly : " Thou feedest thy thrall over well, lord, even 

276 



for a king's son : is it so that thou art minded to 
fatten him and eat him ? " Then some of the others 
took up the jest, and bade the carle refrain him of the 
meat, so that he might not fatten, and might live the 
longer. He hearkened to them, and knit his brows 
and looked fiercely from one to the other. But Ralph 
laughed aloud, and shook his finger at him and re- 
frained him, and his wrath ran off him and he laughed, 
and shoved the victual into him doughtily, and sighed 
for pleasure when he had made an end and drunk a 
draught of wine. 

CHAPTER XXII. RALPH TALKS WITH 
BULL SHOCKHEAD. 

WHEN they rode on again, Ralph rode beside 
Bull, who was merry and blithe now he was 
full of meat and drink ; and he spake anon : 
'^ So thou art a king's son, master ? I deemed from 
the first that thou wert of lineage. For as for these 
churls of chapmen, and the sworders whom they 
wage, they know not the name of their mother's 
mother, nor have heard one word of the beginner of 
their Idndred; and their deeds are like unto their 
kinlessness." 

" And are thy deeds so good ? " said Ralph. " Arc 
they ill,'' said Bull, *^ when they are done agsunst the 
foemen ?" Sdd Ralph : ** And are all men your foe- 
men who pass through these mountains?" ^AU," 
said Bull, ^'but they be of the kindred or their 
known friends." 

"Well, Bull," said Ralph, "I like thy deeds little, 
that thou shouldest ravish men and women from their 
good life, and sell them for a price into toil and 
weariness and stripes." 

Said Bull : ^' How much worse do we than the 
chapman by his debtor, and the lord of the manor by 

277 



his villein ?" Said Ralph : " Far worse, it ye did but 
know it, poor men ! " Quoth BuU : •' Bm I neither 
know it, nor can know it, nay, not when thou sayest 
it ; for it is not so. And look you, master, this life 
of a bought thrall is not such an exceeding evil fife; 
for oft they be dealt with softly and friendly, and 
have other thralls to work for them under their 
whips." 

Ralph lai^hed : '* Which shall I make thee, fiiead 
Bull, the upper or the under ? '' BuU reddened, but 
said naught. Said Ralph: ^^Or where ^udl I sell 
thee, that I may make the best penny out of my ffood 
luck and valiancy ? '' Bull looked chopfallen : ^ Nay*** 
s^d he in a wheedling voice, ^ thou wilt not sell me, 
thou ? For I deem that thou wilt be a good master 
to me : and," he broke into sudden heat hereaf^ * if I 
have another master I shall surely slay him whatever 
betide." 

Ralph laughed agsun, and said : ^ Seest thou n^ 
an evil craft ye follow, when thou deemest it better 
to be slain with bitter torments (as thou shouldest be 
if thou slewest thy master) than to be sold to anf 
master save one exceeding good i " 

Bull held his peace hereat, but presently he said : 
'^ Well, be our craft good or evil, it is gainful ; and 
whiles there is prey taken right good, which, for my 
part, I would not sell, once I had my hand thereon.'' 
'^ Yea, women i*' said Ralph. '^ Even so," said Bull, 
^^ such an one was taken by my kinsman Bull Nosy 
but a little while agone, whom he took down to the 
market at Cheaping Knowe, as I had not done if I 
had once my arms about her. For she was as fair as 
a flower ; and yet so well built, that she could bear 
as much as a strong man in some ways; and, satth 
Nosy, when she was taken, there was no weeping or 
screeching in her, but patience rather and quietness, 
and intent to bear all and live. . • . Master, may I 

278 



99 



ask thee a question ? " ^' Ask on/'* said Ralph. Said 
Bull : '^ The pair of beads about thy neck, whence 
came they ? " " They were the gift of a dear friend, 
said Ralph. "A woman?" quoth Bull. **Yea, 
said Ralph. 

" Now IS this strange/' said Bull, " and I wot not 
what it may betoken, but this same woman had about 
her neck a pair of beads as like to thine as if they had 
been the very same : did this woman give thee the 
beads ? For I will say this of thee, master, that thou 
art well nigh as likely a man as she is a woman." 

Ralph sighed, for this talk of the woman and the 
beads brought all the story into his mind, so that it 
was as if he saw it adoing agun : the Lady of the 
Wildwood led along to death before he delivered her, 
and their flight together from the Water of the Oak, 
and that murder of her in the desert. And betwixt 
the diverse deeds of the day this had of late become 
somewhat dim to him. Yet after his grief came joy ^ 
that this man also had seen the damsel, whom his 
dream of the night had called Dorothea, and that he 
knew of her captors; wherefore by his means he 
might come on her and deliver hef . 

Now he spake aloud : '* Nay, it was not she that 
gave them to me, but yet were I fain to find this 
woman that thou sawest ; for I look to meet a friend 
whenas I meet her. So tell me, dost thou think that 
I may cheapen her of thy kinsman ? " 

Bull shook his head, and s^d : *' It may be : or it 
may be that he hath already sold her to one who 
heedeth not treasure so much as fair flesh ; and fiur is 
hers beyond most. But, lord, I will do my best to 
find her for thee ; as thou art a king's son and no ill 
master, I deem." 

" Do that," quoth Ralph, " and I in turn will do 
what more I may for thee brides making thee free." 
And therewith he rode forward that he might get out 

279 



of earshot, for BulFs tongue seemed like to be long. 
And presendy he heard hughter behind him, as the 
carle began jesting and talking with the chapman lads. 

CHAPTER XXIII. OF THE TOWN OF 
CHEAPING KNOWE. 

NOW when it was evening they pitched thdr 
camp down in the plain fields amidst tall dm- 
trees, and had their banners still flying over 
the tents to warn all comers of what they were. But 
the next morning the chapmen and their folk were up 
betimes to runmiage their loads, and to array their 
wares for the market ; and they gat not to the road 
before mid-morning. Meantime of their riding Ralph 
had more talk with Bull, who said to him : ^* Fur 
lord, I rede thee when thou art in the nuurket of 
Cheaping Knowe, bid master Clement bring thee to 
the thraJl-merchant, and trust me that if such a fair 
image as that we were speaking of hath passed throi^h 
his hands within these three months, he will remember 
it ; and then thou shalt have at least some tale of what 
hath befallen her but a little while ago." 

That seemed good rede to Ralph, and when they 
went on their way he rode beside Clement, and asked 
him many things concerning Cheaping Knowe ; and 
at last about the thrall-market therein. And Clement 
said that, though he dealt not in such wares, he had 
often seen them sold, and knew the master of that 
market. And when Ralph asked if the said master 
would answer questions concerning the selling of men 
and of women, Clement smiled and said : ^' Yea, yea, 
he will answer ; for as he lives by selling thralls, and 
every time a thrall is sold by him he maketh some 
gain by it, it is to his profit that they change masters 
as often as may be; and when thou askest of the 
woman whom thou art seeking, he will be deeming 

280 



that there will be some new chaffer ahead. I will 
bring thee to him, and thou shalt ask him of what 
thou wilt^ and belike he will tell thee quietly over the 
wine-cup." 

Therewith was Ralph well content, and he grew 
eager to enter into the town. 

They came to the gates a little before sunset, after 
they had passed through much fur country ; but nigh 
to the walls it was bare of trees and thickets, whereas, 
said Clement, they had been cut down lest they should 
serve as cover to strong-thieves or folk assailing the 
town* The walls were strong and tall, and a great 
castle stood high up on a hill, about which the town 
was builded ; so that if the town were taken there 
would yet be another town within it to be taken also. 
But the town within, save for the said castle, was 
scarce so fairly builded as the worst of the towns 
which Ralph had seen erst, though there were a many 
houses therein. 

Much people was gathered about the gate to see 
the merchants enter with banners displayed; and 
Ralph deemed many of the folk fair, such as were 
goodly clad ; for many had but foul clouts to cover 
their nakedness, and seemed needy and hunger-pinched. 
Withal there were many warriors amongst the throng, 
and most of these bore a token on their sleeves, to 
wit, a sword reddened with blood And Clement, 
speaking softly in Ralph's ear, did him to wit that 
this was the token of the lord who had gotten the 
castle in those days, and was tyrant of the town ; and 
how that he had so many men-at-arms ready to do 
his bidding that none in the town was safe from him 
if he deemed it more for his pleasure and profit to rob 
or maim, or torment or slay, than to sufier them to 
live peaceably. ^ But with us chapmen,'' said Clement, 
*'he will not meddle, lest there be an end of chaffer in 
the town ; and verily the market is good." 

281 



Thus they rode through the streets into the market 
place, which was wide and great, and the best houses 
of the town were therein, and so came to the hostel of 
the Merchants, called the Fleece, which was a big 
house, and goodly enough. 

The next morning Clement and the other chapmen 
went up into the Castle, bearing with them gifts out 
of their wares for the kurd, and Clement bade Ralph 
keep close till he came back, and especially to keep 
his war-caught thrall. Bull Shockheac^ safe at home, 
lest he be taken from him, and to clothe him in die 
guise of the chapman kds, and to dock his hair ; and 
even so Ralph did, though Bull were loath thereto. 

About noon the chapmen came back i^n well 
pleased ; and Clement gave Ralph a parchment from 
the lord, which bade all men help and let pass Ralph 
of Upmeads, as a sergeant of the chapmen's goard, 
and said withal that now he was free to go about dtt 
town if he listed, so that he were back at the hosfid 
of the Fleece by nightfall. 

So Ralph went in company with some of the 
sergeants and others, and looked at this and that 
about the town without hindrance, save that the 
?uard would not suffer them to pass further than the 
bailey of the Castle. And for the said bidley, for- 
sooth, they had but little stomach; for they saw 
thence, on the slopes of the Castle-hill, tokens of the 
cruel justice of the said lord ; for there were men and 
women there, yea, and babes also, hanging on gibbets 
and thrust through with sharp pales^ and when diey 
asked of folk why these had suffered, they but looked 
at them as if astonished, and passed on without a 
word. 

So they went thence, and found the master-church, 
and deemed it not much fairer than it was great; and 
it was nowise great, albeit it was strange and uncouth 
of fashion. 

2%2 



Then they came to great gardens within the town, 
and they were exceeding goodly, and had trees and 
flowers and fruits in them which Ralph had not seen 
hitherto, as lemons, and oranges, and pomegranates ; 
and the waters were running dirough them in runnels 
of ashlar ; and the weather was fair and hot ; so they 
rested in those gardens till it was evening, and then 
gat them home to the Fleece, where they had good 
entertainment 

CHAPTER XXIV. RALPH HEARETH MORE 
TIDINGS OF THE DAMSEL. 

THE second day, while the merchants saw to 
their chafler, most of the men-at-arms, and 
Ralph with diem, spent their time again in 
those goodly gardens ; where, indeed, some of them 
made friends of fiur women ci the jJace ; in which 
there was less risk than had been for aUens in some 
towns, whereas at Cheaping Knowe such women as 
were wedded according to law, or damsels in the care 
of their kindred, or slaves who were concubine^ had 
not dared so much as to look on a ihan. 

The third day time hung somewhat heavy on 
Ralph's hands, not but that the Compamons were well 
at ease, but rather because himseemed that he was 
not stirring in the quest 

But the next day Clement bade hirh come see that 
thrall-merchant aforesaid, and brought him to a eomer 
of the market-place, where was a throng looking on 
at the cheaping. They went through the throng, 
and beside a stone like a kaping-on stone saw a tall 
man, goodly of presence, black bearded, clad in scarlet ; 
and this was the merchant ; and by him were two of 
his knaves and certain weaponed men who had 
brought their wares to the cheaping. And some 
of these were arrayed like those foemen of the moun- 

a»3 



tains. There was a half score and three of these 
chattels to be sold, who stood up one after other on 
the stone, that folk might cheapen them. The 
cheaping was long about, because they that had a 
mind to buy were careful to know what they were 
buying, like as if they had been cheapening a horse, 
and most of them before they bid their highest had 
the chattels away into the merchant's booth to strip 
them, lest they should buy damaged or unhandsome 
bodies ; and this more especially if it were a woman, 
for the men were already well nigh naked. Of women 
four of them were young and goodly, and Ralph 
looked at them closely; but they were naught like to 
the woman of his quest 

Now this cheaping irked Ralph sorely, as was like 
to be, whereas, as hath been told, he came from a 
land where were no thralls, none but vavassors and 
good yeomen : yet he abode till all was done, hansd 
paid, and the thralls led off by their new masters. 
Then Clement led him up to the merchant, to whom 
he gave the sele of the day, and said : ^' Master, this 
is the young knight of whom I told thee, who 
deemeth that a woman who is his friend hath been 
brought to this market and sold there, and if he 
might, he would ransom her." 

The merchant greeted Ralph courteously, and bade 
him and Clement come into his house, where they 
might speak more privily. So did they, and he 
treated them with honour, and set wine and spices 
before them, and bade Ralph say whatlike the 
woman was. Ralph did so, and wondered at himself 
how well and closely he could tell of her, like as a 
picture painted. And, moreover, he drew forth that 
piece of her gown which he had come on by the 
Mid-Mount^n House. 

So when he had done, the merchant, who was a 
man sober of aspect and somewhat slow of speech, 

284 



said : ** Sir, I believe surely that I have seen this 
damsel, but she is not with me now, nor have I sold 
her ever ; but hither was she brought to be sold by a 
man of the mountain folk not very many days ago. 
And the man's name was Bull Nosy, or the long- 
nosed man of the kindred of the Bull, for in such 
wise are named the men of that unhappy folk. Now 
this was the cause why I might not sell her, that she 
was so proud and stout that men feared her, what she 
might do if they had her away. And when some 
spake to see her body naked, she denied it utterly, 
saying that she would do a mischief to whomsoever 
tried it. So I spake to him who owned her, and asked 
him if he thought it good to take her a while and 
quell her with such pains as would spoil her but little, 
and then bring her to market when she was meeker. 
But he heeded my words little, and led her away, she 
riding on a horse and he going afoot beside her ; for 
the mountain-men be no horsemen." 

S^d Ralph : '^ Dost thou know at all whither he 
will have led her ? " Said the merchant : " By my 
deeming, he will have gone first of all to the town of 
Whiteness, whither thy Fellowship will betake them 
ere long : for he will be minded to meet there the 
Lord of Utterbol, who is for such like wares ; and 
he will either eive her to him as a gift, for which he 
will have a cirt in return, or he will sell her to my 
lord at a pnce if he dare to chaffer with him. At 
least so will he do if he be wise. Now if the said 
lord hath her, it will be somewhat more than hard for 
thee to get her ag^n, till he have altogether done with 
her; for money and goods are naught to him beside 
the doing of his will. But there is this for thy com- 
fort, that whereas she is so fair a woman, she will be 
well with my lord. For I warrant me that she will not 
dare to be proud with him, as she was with the folk 
heir." 

29$ 



" Yea/'ssddRalpb/'andwhatisthisIordof Uttcrbol 
that all folk, men and women, fear him so ? '' Said 
the merchant : ^' Fur sir, thou must pardon me if I 
say no more of him. Belike thou mayst fall in with 
him ; and if thou dost, take heed that thou make not 
thyself great with him." 

So Ralph thanked the merchant and departed with 
Clement, of whom presently he asked if he knew aught 
ofthislordof Utterbol. S^d Clement: '^Godforoid 
that I should ever meet him, save where I were many 
and he few. I have never seen him ; but he is deemed by 
all men as the worst of the tyrants who vex these lands, 
and, maybe, the mightiest" 

So was Ralph sore at heart for the damsel, and amm 
he spake to Bull again of her, who deemed somewhat, 
that his kinsman had been minded at the first to 
sell her to the lord of Utterbol. And Ralph thinks 
his game a hard one, yet deems that if he could but 
find out where the damsel was, he might deliver her, 
what by sleight, what by boldness. 

CHAPTER XXV. THE FELLOWSHIP COMES 
TO WHITENESS. 

TWO days thereafter the chapmen having done 
with their matters in Cheaping Knowe, whereas 
they must needs keep some of their wares for 
other places, and especially for Goldburg, they dight 
them to be gone and rode out a-gates of a mid-morn- 
ing with banners displayed. 

It was some fifty miles thence to Whiteness, which 
lay close underneath the mountains, and was, as it were, 
the door of the passes whereby men rode to Goldburg. 
The land which they passed through was fair, both of 
tillage and pasture, with much cattle therein. Every- 
where they saw men and women working afield, but 
no houses of worthy yeomen or vavassors, or cots of 

286 



good husbandmen. Here and there was a casde or 
strong-house, and here and there long rows of ugly 
hoveky or whiles houses, big tall and long, but exceed- 
ing foul and ill-favoured, such as Ralph had not yet 
seen the like of. And when he asked of Clement con- 
cerning all this, he said : *' It is as I have told thee, 
that here be no freemen who work afield, nay, nor vil- 
leins either. AU those whom ye have seep working 
have been bought and sold like to those whom we saw 
standing on the Stone in the market of Cheaping Knowe, 
or else were bom of such cattle, and each one of them 
can be bought gnd sold again, and they work not 9ave 
under the whip. And as for those hovels and the long 
and foul houses, they are the stables wherein this kind 
of cattle is harboured/' 

Then Ralph's heart sank, and he said : *' Master 
Clement, I prithee tell me; were it possible that the 
damsel whom I seek may be come to such a pass as one 
of these ? " « Nay," quoth Clement, " that is little like 
to be ; such goodly wares are kept for the adornment 
of great men's houses. True it is that whiles the 
house-thralls be sent into the fields for their punish- 
ment ; yet not such as she, unless the master be wholly 
wearied of them, or if their wrath outrun their wits ; 
for it is more to the master's profit to chastise them at 
home ; so keep a good heart I bid thee, and maybe we 
shall have tidings at Whiteness." 

So Ralph rerruned his anxious heart, though for- 
sooth his thought was much upon the damsel and of 
how she was faring. 

It was not till the third day at sunset that they came 
to Whiteness ; for on the l^t day of their riding they 
came amqngst the confused hills that lay before the 
great mountains, which were now often hidden from 
dieir sight ; but whenever they appeared through the 
openings of the near hills, they seemed very great and 
terribly ; dark and bare and stony ; and Clement s^d 

287 



that they were little better than they looked from afar. 
As to Whiteness, they saw it a long way off, as it lay 
on a long ridge at the end of a valley : and so long 
was the ridge, that behind it was nothing green; 
naught but the huge and bare mountains. The 
westering sun fell upon its walls and its houses, so 
that it looked white indeed against those great difis 
and crags ; though, said Clement, that these were yet 
a good way off. Now when, after a long ride from 
the hither end of the valley, they drew nigh to the 
town, Ralph saw that the walls and towers were not 
very high or strong, for so steep was the hill whereon 
the town stood, that it needed not Here also was no 
great casde within the town as at Cheaping Knowe, 
and the town itself nothing so big, but long and strag- 
gling along the top of the ridge. Cheaping Knowe 
was all builded of stone ; but the houses here were of 
timber for the most part, done over with pargeting 
and whitened well Yet was the town more cheerful 
of aspect than Cheaping Knowe, and the folk who 
came thronging about the chapmen at the gates not so 
woe-begone, and goodly enough. 

Of the lord of W hiteness, Clement told that he paid 
tribute to him of Cheaping Knowe, rather for love of 
peace than for fear of him ; for he was no ill lord, and 
free men lived well under him. 

So the chapmen lodged in the market-place ; and in 
two days time Ralph got speech of the Deacon of the 
Chapmen of the Town ; who told him two matters ; 
first that the lord of Uttcrbol had not been in White- 
ness these six months ; and next that the wild man had 
verily brought the damsel into the market; but he 
had turned away thence suddenly with her, without 
bringing her to the stone, and that it was most 
like that he would have the lord of Utterbol buy 
her ; who, since he would be deeming that he might 
easily bend her to his will, would give him the 

288 



better penny for her. ** At the last," quoth the Deacon, 
'^ the wild man led her away toward the mount^n pass 
that goeth to Goldburg, the damsel and he alone, and 
she with her hands unbound and riding a little horse/' 
Of these tidings Ralph deemed it good that all traces 
of her were not lost ; but his heart misgave him when 
he thought that by this time she must surely be in the 
hands of the lord of Utterbol 



CHAPTER XX VI. THEY RIDE THE MOUN- 
TAINS TOWARD GOLDBURG. 

FIVE days the Fellowship abode at Whiteness, and 
or ever they departed Clement waged men-at- 
arms of the lord of the town, besides servants to 
look to the beasts amongst the mountains, so that 
what with one, what with another, they entered the 
gates of the mountains a goodly company of four 
score and ten. 

Ralph asked of Bull if any of those whom he might 
meet in these mountains were of his kindred; and he 
answered, nay, unless perchance there might be some 
one or two going their peaceful errands there like Bull 
Nosy. So Ralph armed him with a good sword and 
a shield, and would have given him a steel hood also, 
but he would not bear it, saying that if sword and 
shield could not keep his head he had well earned a 
split skull. 

Seven days they rode the mountains, and the way 
was toilsome and weary enough, for it was naught but 
a stony maze of the rocks where nothing living 
dwelt, and nothing grew, save now and again a little 
dwarf willow. Yet was there naught worse to meet 
save toil, because they were over strong for the wild 
men to meddle with them, whereas the kmdreds there- 
about were but feeble. 

But as it drew towards evening on the seventh day 

aSp u 



Ralph had ridden a little ahead with Bull alone, if he 
liiight perchance have a sight of the endii^ of this 
grievous wilderness, as Clement said might be^ a&cc 
now the way was down-hill, and all waters ran east 
So as they rode, and it was about sunset, they saw 
something lying by a big stone under a cliff; so thej 
drew nigh, and saw a man lying on his back, and they 
deemed he was dead. So Bull went up to him, and 
leapt off his horse close by him and bent over him, 
but str^ghtway cast up his arms and set up a long 
wailing whoop, and then another and another^ so that 
they that were behind heard it and came up upon die 
spur. But Ralph leapt from his horse, and ran up to 
Bull and said: ^ What aileth thee to whoop and wail ? 
Who is it ? '* But Bull turned about and shook his 
head at him, and said : *' It is a man of my kindred, 
even he that was leading away thy she-fiiend ; and 
belike she it was that slew him, or why is riie not 
here: Ochone! ahoo! ahoo!" Theremth fire nm 
through Ralph's heart, and he bethought him of that 
other murder in the wilderness, and he fell to wring- 
ing his hands, and cried out : " Ah, and where is she, 
where is she ? Is she also taken away fi-om me for 
ever ? O me unhappy ! " 

And he drew his sword therewith, and ran about 
amongst the rocks and the bushes seeking her body. 

And therewith came up Clement, and others of the 
company, and wondered to see Bull kneeling down by 
the corpse, and to hear him crying out and wuling, 
and Ralph running about like one mad, and crying out 
now : " Oh ! that I might find her ! Mayhappen she 
is alive yet, and anigh here in some cleft of the rocks 
in this miserable wilderness. O my love that hast 
lain in mine arms, wouldst thou not have me find her 
alive ? But if she be dead, then will I slay myself, 
for as young as I am, that I may find thee and her out 
of the world, since from the world both ye are gone.'' 

290 



Then Clement went up to RalpH^ and would have 
a true tale out of him, and asked him what was amiss ; 
but Ralph stared wild at him and answered not. But 
Bull cried out from where he knelt : ^' He is seeking 
the woman, and I would that he could find her ; for 
then would I slay her on the howe of my kinsman : 
for she hath slain him ; she hath slain him." 

That word heard Ralph, and he ran at Bull with 
uplifted sword to slay him ; but Clement tripped him 
and he fell, and his sword flew out of his hand. Then 
Clement and two of the others bound his hands with 
their girdles, till they might know what had be^en ; 
for they deemed that a devil had entered into him, 
and feared that he would do a mischief to himself or 
some other. 

And now was the whole Fellowship assembled, and 
stood in a ring round about Ralph and Bull, and the 
dead man ; as for him, he had been dead some time, 
many days belike ; but in that high and clear cold air, 
his carcase, whistled by the wind, had dried rather 
than rotted, and his face was clear to be seen with its 
great hooked nose and long black hair : and his skull 
was cloven. 

Now Bull had done his wailing for his kinsman, and 
he seemed to wake up as from a dream, and looked 
about the ring of men and spake : ^' Here is a great to 
do, my masters ! What will ye with me ? Have ye 
heard, or is it your custom, that when a man cometh 
on the dead corpse of his brother, his own mother's 
son, he tumeth it over with his foot, as if it were the 
carcase of a dog, and so goeth on his way i This I 
ask, that albeit I be but a war-taken thrall, I be 
suffered to lay my brother in earth and heap a howe 
over him in these mountains." 

They all murmured a yeasay to this save Ralph. 
He had been sobered by his fidl, and was standing up 
now betwixt Clement and the captain, who had 

291 



unbound his hands, now that the others had come up; 
he hung his head, and was ashamed of his fiuy by 
seeming. But when Bull had spoken, and the others 
had answered, Ralph said to Bull, wrathfiiUy still, 
but like a man in lus wits : " Why dxdst thou say that 
thou wouldest slay her ?" " Hast thou found her?" 
said Bull. " Nay," quoth Ralph, sullenly. « Well, 
then," said Bull, " when thou dost find her, we will 
sp»k of it" Said Ralph: "Why didst thou say 
that she hath slain him ? " " I was put out of my 
wits by the sight of him dead," said Bull ; ^' but now 
I say mayhappen she hath slain him." 

" And mayhappen not," said Clement ; ^^ look here 
to the cleaving of his skull right through this iron 
headpiece, which he will have bought at Cheaping 
Knowe (for I have seen suchlike in the armourers' 
booth there): it must have taken a strong man to 
do this." 

*^ Yea," quoth the captain, ^ and a . big sword to 
boot : this is the stroke of a strong man wielding a 
good weapon." 

Said Bull: ^'Well, and will my master bid me 
forego vengeance for my brother's slaying, or that I 
bear him to purse ? Then let him slay me now, for 
I am )iis thrall" Said Ralph: "Thou shalt do as 
thou wilt herein, and I also will do as I will. For if 
she slew him, the taking of her captive should be set 
against the slaying." " That is but right," said the 
captain ; " but Sir Ralph, I bid thee take the word of 
an old man-at-arms for it, that she slew him not; 
neither she, nor any other woman." 

Said Clement : " Well, let all this be. But tell me, 
lord Ralph, what thou wouldst do, since now thou 
art come to thyself again ? " Said Ralph : ** 1 would 
seek the wilderness hereabout, if perchance the damsel 
be thrust into some cleft or cavern, alive or dead.*" 

" Well," said Clement, " this is my rede. Since 

292 



Bull Shockhead would bury his brother, and lord 
Ralph would seek the damsel, and whereas there is 
water anigh, and the sun is well nigh set, let us pitch 
our tents and abide here till morning, and let night 
bring counsel unto some of us. How say ye, rel- 
lows?" 

None naysaid it, and they fell to pitching the tents, 
and lighting the cooking-fires ; but Bull at once betook 
him to digging a grave for his brother, whilst Ralph 
with the captain and four others went and sought all 
about the place, and looked into all clefts of the rocks, 
and found not the maiden, nor any token of her. 
They were long about it, and when they were come 
back again, and it was night, though the moon shone 
out, there was Bull Shockhead standing by the howe 
of his brother Bull Nosy, which was heaped up high 
over the place where they had found him. 

So when Bull saw him, he turned to him and said : 
'^ King's son, I have done what needs was for this 
present Now, wilt thou slay me for my fault, or 
shall I be thy man again, and serve thee truly unless 
the blood feud come between us?" Said Ralph: 
" Thou shalt serve me truly, and help me to find him 
who hath slain thy brother, and carried off the damsel ; 
for even thus it hath been done meseemeth, since 
about here we have seen no signs of her alive or dead. 
But to-morrow we shall seek wider ere I ride on my 
way." *^ Yea," said Bull, " and I will be one in the 
search." 

So then they gat them to their sleeping-berths, and 
Ralph, contrary to his wont, lay long awake, ponder- 
ing these things ; till at last he said to himself that 
this woman, whom he called Dorothea, was certainly 
alive, and wotted that he was seeking her. And then 
it seemed to him that he could behold her through the 
darkness of night, clad in the green flowered gown as 
he had first seen her, and she bewailing her captivity 

293 



and the long tarrying of the deliverer as she went to 
and fro in a great chamber builded of marble and done 
about with gold and bright colours : and or ever he 
slept, he deemed this to be a vision of what tlien was, 
ratner than a memory of what had been ; and it wis 
sweet to his very soul. 

CHAPTER XXVII. CLEMENT TELLS OF 
GOLDBURG. 

NOW when it was morning he rose euiy and 
roused Bull and the captain, and they searched 
in divers places where they had not been the 
night before, and even a good way back about the 
road they had ridden yesterday, but found no txKi^ 
And Ralph said to himself diat this was nai^ht but 
what he had looked for after that vision of the night 
So he rode with his fellows somewhat sbamelaced 
that they had seen that sudden madness in him; but 
was presently of better cheer than he had been vet 
He rode beside Clement ; they went downUll spteaHjj 
and the wilderness began to better, and there was gnss 
at whiles, and bushes here and there. A little after 
noon they came out of a pass cleft deep through die 
rocks by a swift stream which had once been far 
greater than then, and climbed up a steep ridge that 
lay across the road, and looking down from the top of it, 
beheld the open country again. But this was otherwise 
from what they had beheld from the moimtain's brow 
above Cheaping Knowe. For thence the mountains be- 
yond Whiteness, even those that they had just ridden, 
were clear to be seen like the wall of the plain country. 
But here, looking adown, the land below them seemed 
but a great spreading plain with no hills rising from 
it, save that far away they could see a certain break in 
it, and amidst that, something that was brighter than 
the face of the land elsewhere. Clement told Ralph 

294. 



that this was Goldburg and that it was built on a 
gathering of hills, not great, but going up steep fix>m 
the plain. And the plain, said he, was not so wholly 
flat and even as it looked from up there, but swelled 
at whiles into downs and low hills. He told him that 
Goldburg was an exceeding fair town to behold; that 
the lord who had built it had brought from over the 
mountains masons and wood-wrights and artificers of 
all kinds, that they might make it as fair as might 
be, and that he spared on it neither wealth nor toil nor 
pains. For in sooth he deemed that he should find the 
Well at the World's End, and drink thereof, and live 
long and young and fair past all record ; therefore had 
he builded this city, to be the house and home of his 
long-enduring joyance. 

Now some said that he had found the Well, and 
drank thereof; others nay said that; but all deemed 
that they knew how that Goldburg was not done build- 
ing ere that lord was slain in a tumult, and that what 
was then undone was cobbled up after the uncomely 
fashion of the towns thereabout. 

Clement said moreover that, this happy lord dead, 
things had not gone so well there as had been looked 
for. Forsooth it had been that lord's will and meaning 
that all folks in Goldburg should thrive, both those 
who wrought and those for whom they wrought. But 
it went not so, but there were many poor folk there, 
and few wealthy. 

Agun said Qement that though the tillers and toilers 
of Goldburg were not for the most part mere thralls 
and chattels, as in the lands beyond the moimtsuns 
behind them, yet were they little more thriving for 
that cause ; whereas they belonged not to a master, 
who must at worst feed them, and to no manor, whose 
acres they might till for their livelihood, and on whose 
pastures they might feed their cattle ; nor had they any 
to help or sustain them against the oppressor and the 

295 



violent man ; so that they toiled and swinked and died 
with none heeding them, save they that had the work 
of their hands good cheap ; and they forsooth heeded 
them less than their draught beasts whom they must 
needs buy with money, and whose bellies they must 
needs fill; whereas these poor wretches were slaves 
without a price, and if one died another took his place 
on the chance that thereby he might escape present 
death by hunger, for there was a great numy of them. 

CHAPTER XXVIII. NOW THEY COME TO 
GOLDBURG. 

THAT night they slept yet amongst the moun- 
tains, or rather in the first of the hill country 
at their feet ; but on the morrow they rode 
down into the lowlands, and thereby lost all sight €£ 
Goldburg, and it was yet afar off, so that they rode 
four days through lands well-tilled, but for the most 
part ill-housed, a country of little hills and hollows and 
rising grounds, before they came in sight of it agun 
heaving up huge and bright under the sun. It was 
built partly on three hills, the buttresses of a long 
ridge which turned a wide river, and on the ridge itself 
and partly on the flat shore of the river, on either side, 
hill ward and plainward : but a great white wall girt it 
all about, which went right over the river as a bridge, 
and on the plain side it was exceeding high, so that its 
battlements might be somewhat evened with those of 
the hill-wall above. So that as they came up to the 
place they saw little of the town because of the enormity 
of the wall ; scarce aught save a spire or a tall tower- 
like roof here and there. 

So when they were come anigh the gate, they dis- 
played their banners and rode right up to it ; and 
people thronged the walls to see their riding. One by 
one they passed through the wicket of the gate : which 

296 



gate itself was verily huge beyond measure, all built 
of great ashlar-stones ; and when they were within, it 
was like a hall somewhat long and exceeding high, most 
fairly vaulted ; midmost of the said hall they rode 
through a noble arch on their right hand, and lo 
another hall exceeding long, but lower than the first, 
with many glazen windows set in its townward waU ; 
and when they looked through these, they saw the river 
running underneath ; for this was naught but the lower 
bridge of the city ; and they learned afterwards and saw, 
that above the vault of this long bridge rose up the 
castle, chamber on chamber, till its battlements were 
level with the highest towers of the wall on the hill 
top. 

Thus they passed the bridge, and turning to the left 
at its ending, came into the Water-Street of Goldburg, 
where the nver, with wide quays on either side thereof, 
ran betwixt the houses. As for these, beneath the 
dwellings went a fair arched passage like to the 
ambulatory of an abbey ; and every house all along 
this street was a palace for its goodliness. The houses 
were built of white stones and red and grey ; with 
shapely pillars to the cloister, and all about carvings 
of imagery and knots of flowers ; goodly were the 
windows and all glazed, as fair as might be. On the 
river were great rarges, and other craft such as were 
not sea-goers, river-ships that might get them through 
the bribes and furnished with masts that might be 
lowered and shipped. 

Much people was gathered to see the chapmen enter, 
yet scarce so many as might be looked for m so goodly 
a town ; yea, and many of the folk were clad foully, 
and were haggard of countenance, and cried on the 
chapmen for alms. Howbeit some were clad gaily and 
richly enough, and were fair of favour as any that 
Ralph had seen since he left Upmeads : and amongst 
these goodly folk were women not a few, whose gear 

297 



and bearing called to Ralph's mind the women of die 
Wheatwearers whom he had seen erst in tlie Burg of 
the Four Friths, whereas they were somewhat wanlonly 
clad in scanty and thin raiment. And of these, though 
they were not all thralls, were many who were in servi- 
tude : for, as Clement did Ralph to wit, though the til- 
lers of the soil, and the herdsmen, in short the hewers 
of wood and drawers of water, were men masterlessi yet 
rich men might and did buy both men and women 
for servants in their houses, and for their pleasure 
and profit in divers wise. 

So they rode to their hostel in the market place, 
which lay a little back fit>m the river in an ingle €£ 
the ridge and one of its buttresses ; and all round the 
said market were houses as fair as the first they had 
seen : but above, on the hill-sides, save for the casde 
and palace of the Queen (for a woman ruled in Goid- 
burg), were the houses but low, poorly built of post 
and pan, and thatched with straw, or reed, or shii^gle. 
But the great church was all akmg one side of the 
market place ; and albeit this folk was somewhat wild 
and strange of faith for Christian men, yet was it 
dainty and delicate as might be, and its steeples and 
bell-towers were high and well builded, and adorned 
exceeding richly. 

So they lighted down at their hostel, and never bad 
Ralph seen such another, for the oourt within was 
very great and with a fair garden filled with flowers 
and orchard-trees, and amidst it was a fountain of 
iresh water, built in the goodliest fashion of many- 
coloured marble-stones. And the arched and pillared 
way about the said court was as fair as the cloister of 
a mitred abbey; and the hall for the guests was of 
like fashion, vaulted with marvellous cunning, and 
with a row of pillars amidmost. 

There they abode in good entertainment ; yet this 
noted Ralph, that as goodly as was the fashion of 

298 



the building of that house, yet the hangings and beds, 
and stools, and ch^rs, and other plenbhing were no 
richer or better than might be seen in the hostelry of 
any good town. 

So they went bedward, and Ralph slept dreamlessly, 
as was mostly his wont. 



CHAPTER XXIX. OF GOLDBURG AND THE 
QUEEN THEREOF. 

ON the morrow, when Ralph and Clement met 
in the hall, Clement spake and said : '^ Lord 
Ralph, as I told thee in Whitwall, we clu^Miien 
are now at the end of our outward journey, and in 
about twenty days time we shall turn back to the 
mountains ; but, as I deem, thou wilt be minded to 
follow up thy quest of the damsel, and whatsoever 
else thou mayst be seeking. Now this thou mayst 
¥rell do whiles we are here in Goldburg, and yet come 
back hither in time to fare back with us : atid also, if 
thou wih, thou mayst have fellows in thy quest, to 
wit some of those our men-at-arms, who love thee 
wen. But now, when ^ou hast done thy best these 
days during, if titou. hast then found naught, I counsel 
thee and beseech thee to come thy ways back with 
us, that we twain may wend to Upmeads together, 
where thou shalt live well, and better all the deeds of 
thy father. Meseemeth this will be more meet for tiiee 
than the casting away of thy life in seeking a woman, 
who maybe will be naught to thee when thou hast 
found her; or in chasing some castle in the clouds, that 
shall be never the nigher to thee, how far soever thou 
farest For now I tell thee that I have known this 
while how thou art seeking the Well at the World's 
End ; and who knoweth that there is any such thing 
on the earth ? Come, then, thou art fair, and young, 
and strong ; and if ye seek wealth thou shalt have it^ 

299 



and my furtherance to the utmost, if that be aught 
worth. Bethink thee, child> there are they that love 
thee in Upmeads and thereabout, were it but thy 
gossip, my wife, dame Katherine." 

Said Ralph : ^' Master Clement, I thank thee for 
all that thou hast said, and thy behest, and thy deeds. 
Thy rede is good, and in all ways will I follow it 
save one ; to wit, that if I have not found the damsel 
ere ye turn back, I must needs abide in this land 
searching for her. And I pray the pardon both of 
thee and of thy gossip, if I answer not your love as 
ye would, and perchance as I should. Yea, and of 
Upmeads also I crave pardon. But in doing as I do, 
my deed shall be but according to the duty bounden 
on me by mine oath, when Duke Osmond made me 
knight last year, in the church of St. Laurence of 
Upmeads." 

Said Clement : '* I see that there is sometlung dae 
in it than that ; I see thee to be young, and that love 
and desire bind thee in closer bonds than thy knightly 
oath. Well, so it must be, and till thou hast her, 
there is but one woman in the world for thee." 

" Nay, it is not so. Master Clement," said Ralph, 
*^ and I will tell thee this, so that thou mayst trow 
my naysay ; since I departed from Upmeads, I have 
been taken in the toils of love, and desired a ^r 
woman, and I have won her and death hath taken 
her. Trowest thou my word ? " 

" Yea," said Clement, " but to one of thy years love 
is not plucked up by the root, and it soon groweth 
again." Then said Ralph, sadly : " Now tell my 
gossip of this when thou comest home." Clement 
nodded yeasay, and Ralph spake again in a moment : 
** And now will I begin my search in Goldburg by pray- 
ing thee to bring me to speech of merchants and others 
who may have seen or heard tidings of my damsel." 

He looked at Clement anxiously as he spoke ; and 

300 



Clement smiled, for he said to himself that looking 
into Ralph's heart on this matter was like looking 
into a chamber through an open window. But he 
said : ^' Fear not but I will look to it ; I am thy 
friend, and not thy schoolmaster/' 

Therewith he departed from Ralph, and within 
three days he had brought him to ^eech of all those 
who were like to know anything or the matter ; and 
one and all they said that they had seen no such 
woman, and that as for the Lord of Utterbol, he had 
not been in Goldburg these three months. But one of 
the merchants s^d : *' Master Clement, if this young 
knight is boun for Utterbol, he beareth his life 
in his hand, as thou knowest ftiU well. Now I rede 
thee bring him to our Queen, who is good and com- 
passionate, and if she may not help him otherwise, 
yet belike she may give him a writing to show to that 
tyrant, which may stand him in stead: for it does 
not do for any man to go against the will of our 
Lady and Queen ; who will surely pay lum back for 
his ill-will some day or other." S^d Clement : ^' It is 
well thought of, and I will surely do as thou biddest" 

So wore four days, and, that time during, Ralph 
was going to and fro asking questions of folk that he 
came across, as people new come to the city and 
hunters from the mountain-feet and the forests of the 
plain, and mariners and such like, concerning the 
damsel and the Lord of Utterbol ; and Bull also went 
about seeking tidings: but whereas Ralph asked down- 
right what he wanted to know. Bull was wary, and 
rather led men on to talk with him concerning those 
things than asked them of them in such wise that 
they saw the question. Albeit it was all one, and no 
tidings came to them ; indeed, the name of the Lord 
of Utterbol (whom forsooth Bull named not) seemed 
to freeze the speech on men's tongues, and they 
conunonly went away at once when it was spoken. 

301 



On the fifth day came Clement to Ralph and sadd : 
^' Now will I bring thee to the Queen, and she is 
young, and so fair, and withal so wise, that it seems 
to me not all so sure but that the sight of her will 
make an end of thy quest once for all. So that 
meseems thou mayest abide here in a life far better 
than wandering amongst uncouth folk, perilous and 
cruel. Yea, so thou mayst have it if thou wilt, hang 
so exceeding goodly, and wise, and well-^)oken, and 
of high linei^/' 

Ralph heard and reddened, but gave him back no 
answer ; and they went together to the High House 
of the Queen, which was like a piece of the Kingdom 
of Heaven for loveliness, so many pillars as there were 
of bright marble stone, and gilded, and the chapiters 
carved most excellently: not many hangings on the 
walls, for the walls themselves were carven, and 
painted with pictures in the most excellent manner ; 
the floors withal were so dainty that they seemed as 
if they were made for none but the feet of the fairest 
of women. And all this was set amidst of gardens, 
the like of which they had never seen. 

But they entered without more ado, and were 
brought by the pages to the Lady's innermost cham- 
ber ; and if the rest of the house were goodly, this was 
goodlier, and a marvel, so that it seemed wrought 
rather by goldsmiths and jewellers than by masons 
and carvers. Yet indeed many had said with Clement 
that the Queen who sat there was the goodhest part 
thereof. 

Now she spake to Clement and said : " Hail, mer- 
chant ! Is this the young knight of whom thou tellest, ^ 
he who seeketh his beloved that hath been borne away 
into thralldom by evil men ? " 

"Even so," said Clement. But Ralph spake: 
" Nay, Lady, the damsel whom I seek is not my 
beloved, but my friend. My beloved is dead." 

302 



The Queen looked on him smiling kindly^ yet was 
her face somewhat troubled. She said: *' Master 
chapman, thy time here is not over long for all that 
thou hast to do ; so we give thee leave to depart with 
oiu- thanks for bringing a friend to see us. But this 
knight hath no afiairs to look to : so if he will abide 
with us for a little, it will be to our pleasure/* 

So Clement made his obeisance and went his ways. 
But the Queen bade Ralph sit before her, and tell her 
of his griefs, and she looked so kindly and ^endly 
upon him that the heart melted within him, and he 
might say no word, for the tears that brake out from 
him, and he wept before her ; while she looked on 
him, the colour ccmiing and going in her ^e, and her 
lips trembling, and let him weep on. But he thought 
not of her, but of himself and how kind she was to 
him. But after a while he mastered his passion and 
bc^an, and told her all he had done and suffered. 
Long was the tale in the telling, for it was sweet to 
him to lay before her both his grief and his hope. She 
let him talk on, and whiles sne listened to him, and 
whiles not, but all the time she gazed on him« yet 
sometimes askance, as if she were ashamed. As for 
him, he saw her face how fair and lovely she was, yet 
was there little longii^ in his heart for her, more than 
for one of the painted women on the wall, for as kind 
and as dear as he deemed her. 

When he had done, she kept silence a while, but at 
last she enforced her, and spake : *' Sad it is for the 
mother that bore thee that thou art not in her house, 
wherein all things would be kind and familiar to thee. 
Maybe thou art seeking for what is not. Or maybe 
thou shalt seek and shalt find, and there may be 
naught in what thou findest, whereof to give thee such 
gifts as are meet for thy faithfulness and valiancy. 
But in thine home shouldst thou have all gifb which 
thou mayest desire." 

303 



Then was she silent awhile, and then spake : ** Yet 
must I needs say that I would that thine home were 
in Goldburg." 

He smilol sadly and looked on her^ but with no 
astonishment, and indeed he still scarce thought of her 
as he said : ^' Lady and Queen^ thou art good to me 
beyond measure. Yet, look you ! One home I had, 
and I left it ; another I looked to have, and I lost it ; 
and now I have no home. Maybe in days to come I 
shall go back to mine old home ; and whiles I wonder 
with what eyes it will look on me. .For merry is that 
land, and dear ; and I have become sorrowfuL" 

*' Fear not,'' she said ; ^' I say again that in thine 
home shall all things look kindly on thee." 

Once more she sat silent, and no word did his heart 
bid him speak. Then she sighed and s^d: **Fair 
lord, I bid thee come and go in this house as thou 
wilt; but whereas there are many folk who must 
needs see me, and many things are appointed for me 
to do, therefore I pray thee to come hither in three 
days' space, and meanwhile I will look to the matter 
of thy search, that I may speed thee on the way to 
Utterness, which is no great way from Utterbol, and 
is the last town whereof we know aught. And I will 
write a letter for thee to give to the lord of Utterbol, 
which he will heed, if he heedeth aught my good-will 
or enmity. I beseech thee come for it in three days 
wearing." 

Therewith she arose and took his hand and led him 
to the door, and he departed, blessing her goodness, 
and wondering at her courtesy and gentle speech. 

For those three days he was still seeking tidings^ 
everywhere, till folk began to know of him far and 
wide, and to talk of him. And at the time appointed 
he went to the Queen's House and was brought to 
her chamber as before, and she was alone therein. 
She greeted him and smiled on him exceeding kindly, 

304 



but he might not fail to note of her that she looked 
sad and her face was worn by sorrow. She bade him 
sit beside her, and said : " Hast thou any tidings of 
the woman whom thou seekest ?" " Nay, nay," said 
he, ^'and now I am minded to carry on the search 
out-a-gates. I have some good friends who will go 
with me awhile. But thou, Lady, hast thou heard 
aught?" 

" Naught of the damsel," she said. '* But there is 
something else. As Clement told me, thou seekest 
the Well at the World's End, and through Utterness 
and by Utterbol is a way whereby folk seek thither. 
Mayst thou find it, and may it profit thee more than 
it did my kinsman of old, who first raised up Gold- 
burg in the wilderness. Whereas for him was naught 
but strife and confusion, till he was slain in a quarrel, 
wherein to fail was to fail, and to win the day was to 
win shame and misery." 

She looked on him sweetly and said : '* Thou art 
nowise such as he ; and if thou drink of the Well, 
thou wilt go back to Upmeads, and thy father and 
mother, and thine own folk and thine home. But 
now here is the letter which thou shalt give to the 
Lord of Utterbol if thou meet him ; and mayhappen 
he is naught so evil a man as the tale of him runs." 

She gave him the letter into his hands, and spake 
again : " And now I have this to say to thee, if any- 
thing go amiss with thee, and thou be nigh enough to 
seek to me, come hither, and then^ in whatso plight 
thou mayst be, or whatsoever deed thou mayst have 
done, here will be the open door for thee and the 
elcome of a friend." 

Her voice shook a little as she spake, and she was 
silent again, mastering her trouble. Then she said : 
" At last I must say this to thee, that there may no 
lie be between us. That damsel of whom thou 
spakest that she was but thy friend, and not thy 

30s X 



love — O that I might be thy fnend in such-wise! 
But over clearly I see that it may not be so. For thy 
mind looketh on thy deeds to come^ that they shall be 
shared by some other than me. Friend, it seemeth 
strange and strange to me that I have come on thee so 
suddenly, and loved thee so sorely, and that I must 
needs say farewell to thee in so short a while. Fare- 
well, farewell!'' 

Therewith she arose, and once more she took his 
hand in hers, and led him to the door. And he was 
sorry and all amazed : for he had not thought so much 
of her before, that he might see that she loved him ; 
and he thought but that she, being happy and great, 
was kind to him who was hapless and homeless. And 
he was bewildered by her words and sore ashamed 
that for all his grief for her he had no speech, and 
scarce a look for her ; he knew not what to do or say. 

So he left the Queen's House and the court 
thereof, as though the pavement were growing red- 
hot beneath his feet. 



CHAPTER XXX. RALPH HATH HOPE OF 
TIDINGS CONCERNING THE WELL AT 
THE WORLD'S END. 

NOW he goes to Clement, and tells him that he 
deems he has no need to abide their departure 
from Goldburg to say farewell and follow his 
quest further afield ; smce it is clear that in Goldburg 
he should have no more tidings. Clement laughed and 
said: ** Not so fast. Lord Ralph ; thou mayst yet hear 
a word or two." " What ! " said Ralph, ** hast thoi^ 
heard of something new ? " Said Clement : ** There 
has been a man here seeking thee, who said that he 
wotted of a wise man who could tell thee much con- 
cerning the Well at the World's End. And when I 
asked him of the Damsel and the Lord of Utterbol, if 

306 



he knew anything of her, kc said yea, but that he 
would keep it for thy privy ear. So I bade him go 
and come again when thou shouldst be here. And I 
deem that he will not tarry long." 

Now they were sitting on a bench outside the hall 
of the hostel, with the court between them and the 
gate ; and Ralph said : ** Tell me, didst thou deem 
the man good or bad ? " Said Clement : ** He was 
hard to look into : but at least he 'looked not a fierce 
or cruel man ; nor indeed did he seem false or sly, 
though I take him for one who hath lost his manhood 
— but lo you ! here he comes across the court." 

So Ralph looked, and saw in sooth a man drawing 
nigh, who came straight up to them and lowted to 
them, and then stood before them waiting for their 
word: he was fat and somewhat short, white-faced 
and pink- cheeked, with yellow hair long and curling, 
and with a little thin red beard and blue eyes : 
altogether much unlike the fashion of men of those 
parts. He was clad gaily in an orange-tawny coat 
laced with silver, and broidered with colours. 

Clement spake to him and said : " This is the young 
knight who is minded to seek further east to wot if it 
be mere lies which he hath heard of the Well at the 
World's End." 

The new-comer lowted before them again, and said 
in a small voice, and as one who was shy and some- 
what afeared : " Lords, I can tell many a tale con- 
cerning that Well, and them who have gone on the 
quest thereof. And the first thing I have to tell is 
that the way thereto is through Utterness, and that I 
can be a shower of the way and a leader to any worthy 
knight who listeth to Seek thither ; and moreover, I 
know of a sage who dwelleth not far from the town 
of Utterness, and who, if he will, can put a seeker of 
the Well on the right road." 

He looked askance on Ralph, whose face flushed 

307 



and whose eyes glittered at that word. But Clement 
said : '' Yea, that seemeth fair to look to : but hark 
ye ! Is it not so that the way to Uttcmess is perilous?" 
Said the man : " Thou mayst rather call it deadly, to 
any who is not furnished with a let-pass from the Lord 
of Utterbol, as I am. But with such a scroll a child 
or a woman may wend the road unharmed." *' Where 
hast thou the said let-pass ? " said Clement. ** Here," 
quoth the new-comer ; and therewith he drew a scroll 
from out of his pouch, and opened it before them, 
and they read it together, and sure enough it was a 
writing charging all men to let pass and aid Morfinn 
the Minstrel (of whose aspect it told closely), under 
pain of falling into the displeasiire of Gandolf, Lord 
of Utterbol ; and the date thereon was but three 
months old. 

Said Clement : " This is good, this let-pass : sec 
thou, Ralph, the seal of Utterbol, the Bear upon the 
Castle Wall. None would dare to counterfeit this 
seal, save one who was weary of life, and longed for 
torments." 

Said Ralph, smiling : " Thou seest. Master Clement, 
that there must be a parting betwixt us, and that this 
man's coming furthers it : but were he or were he not, 
yet the parting had come. And wert thou not liefer 
that it should come in a way to pleasure and aid me, 
than that thou shouldst but leave me behind at Gold- 
burg when thou departest : and I with naught done 
toward the achieving my quest, but merely dragging 
my deedless body about these streets ; and at last, it 
may be, going on a perilous journey without guiding 
or safe-conduct ? " 

** Yea, lad," said Clement, *^ I wotted well that thou 
wouldst take thine own way, but fain had I been that 
it had been mine also." Then he pondered a while 
and said aftenvards: "I suppose that thou wilt take 
thy servant Bull Shockhead with thee, for he is a stout 

308 



man-at-arms, and I deem him trusty, though he be a 
wild man. But one man is of little avail to a traveller 
on a perilous road, so if thou wilt I will give leave and 
license to a half score of our sergeants to follow thee 
on the road ; for, as thou wottest, I may easily wage 
others in their place. Or else wouldst thou ask the 
Queen of Goldburg to give thee a score of men-at- 
arms; she looked to me the other day as one who 
would deny thee few of thine askings.'* 

Ralph blushed red, and said : ^' Nay, I will not ask 
her this." Then he was silent; the new-comer 
looked from one to the other, and said nothing. At 
last Ralph spake : *^ Look you, Clement, my fi-iend, I 
wot well how thou wouldst make my goings safe, even 
if it were to thy loss, and I thank thee tor it : but I 
deem I shall do no better than putting myself into 
this man's hands, since he has a let-pass for the lands 
of him of Utterbol : and meseemeth from all that I 
have heard, that a half score or a score, or for the 
matter of that an hundred men-at-arms would not be 
enough to fight a way to Utterbol, and their gathering 
together would draw folk upon them, who would not 
meddle with two men journeying together, even if 
they had no let-pass of this mighty man." Clement 
sighed and grunted, and then said : '^ Well, lord, may- 
be thou art right" 

*' Yea," said the guide, " he is as right as may be : 
I have not spoken before lest ye might have deemed 
me untrusty: but now I tell thee this, that never 
should a small band of men unknown win through the 
lands of the Lord of Utterbol, or the land debatable 
that lieth betwixt them and Goldburg." 

Ralph nodded friendly at him as he spake; bat 
Clement looked on him sternly ; and the man beheld 
his scowling face innocently, and took no heed of it. 

Then s^d Ralph : '< As to Bull Shockhead, I will 
speak to him anon; but I will not take him with me; for 

309 



indeed I fear lest his mountun-pride grow up over 
greenly at whiles and entangle me in some thicket of 
peril hard to win out of." 

** Well," said Clement, ** and when wilt thou de- 
part ? " " To-morrow," said Ralph, " if my fering- 
fellow be ready for me by then." ^ I am all ready/' 
sud the man : ^ if thou wilt tide out by the east gate 
about two hours before noon to-morrow, I will abide 
thee on a good horse with all that we may need for the 
journey: and now I ask leave." *'Thou hast it," 
sBid Clement 

So the man departed, and those two beine left 
alone. Master Clement said : '^ Well, I deemed that 
nothing else would come of it : and I fear that thy 
gossip will be ill-content with me; for great is the 
peril." ** Yea," said Ralph, ^' and great Ae reward." 
Clement smiled and sighed, and said: '^Well, lad, 
even so hath a many thought before thee, wise men as 
well as fools." Ralph looked at him and reddened, 
and departed from him a little, and went walking in the 
cloister there to and fro, and pondered these matters ; 
and whatever he might do, still would that trim figure 
be before his eyes which he had looked on so gladly 
erewhile in the hostel of Bourton Abbas ; and he said 
aloud to himself: ^^ Surely she needeth me, and 
draweth me to her whether I will or no." So wore 
the day. 

CHAPTER XXXI. THE BEGINNING OF THE 
ROAD TO UTTERBOL. 

EARLY next morning Ralph arose and called 
Bull Shockhead to him and said: ''So it is, 
Bull, that thou art my war-taken thrall." Bull 
nodded his head, but frowned therewithal. Said 
Ralph : '^ If I bid thee aught that is not beyond reason 
thou wilt do it, wilt thou not ? " '* Yea," said Bull, 

310 



surlily. "Well," quoth Ralph, '*I am going a 
journey cast-away, and I may not have thee with me, 
therefore I bid thee take this gold and go fire with 
my goodwill/' Bull's face lighted up, and the eyes 
glittered in his face ; but he said : '^ Yea, king's son, 
but why wilt thou not take me with thee ? ' Said 
Ralph : ^' It is a perilous journey, and thy being with 
me will cast thee into peril and make mine more. 
Moreover, I have an errand, as thou wottest, which is 
all mine own." 

Bull pondered a little and then said : '^ King's son, 
I was thinking at first that our errands lay together, and 
it is so ; but belike thou sayest true that there wUl be 
less peril to each of us if we sunder at this time. But 
now I will say this to thee, that henceforth thou shalt 
be as a brother to me, if thou wilt have it so, and if 
ever thou comest amongst our people, thou wilt be in 
no danger of them : nay, they shall do all the good 
they may to thee." 

Then he took him by the hand and kissed him, and 
he set his hand to his gear and drew forth a little purse 
of some small beast's skin that was broidered in front 
with a pair of bull's horns : then he stooped down and 
plucked a long and tough bent from the grass at his 
feet (for they were talking in the garden of the hostel) 
and twisted it swiftly into a strange knot of many 
plies, and opening the purse laid it therein and said : 
^^ King's son, this is the token whereby it shall be 
known amongst our folk that I have made thee my 
brother : were the flames roaring about thee, or the 
swords clashing over thine head, if thou cry out, I am 
the brother of Bull Shockhead, all those of my kindred 
who are near will be thy friends and thy helpers. And 
now I say to thee ferewell : but it is not altogether 
unlike that thou mayst hear of me agun in the furthest 
East." So Ralph departed from him, and Clement 
went with Ralph to the Gate of Goldburg, and bade him 

3" 






ferewell there ; and or they parted he said: ^ Meseems 
I have with me now some deal of the foreseeing of 
Katherine my wife, and in my mind it is that we shall 
et see thee at Wulstead and Upmeads, and thou no 
ess famous than now thou art. This is my last word 
to thee." Therewith they parted, and Ralph rode his 
ways. 

He came on his way-leader about a bowshot from 
the gate and they greeted each other : the ssdd guide 
was clad no otherwise than yesterday : he had saddle- 
bags on his horse, which was a strong black roadster : 
but he was nowise armed, and bore but a satchel with 
a case of knives done on to it, and on the other side a 
fiddle in its case. So Ralph smiled on him and said: 
" Thou hast no weapon, then ? " ** What need for 
weapon ? " said he ; ** ance we are not of might for 
battle. This is my weapon,*' ssud he, touching his 
fiddle, *' and withal it is my field and nune acre that 
raiseth flesh-meat and bread for me : yea, and whiles 
a little drink." 

So they rode on together and the man was blithe 
and merry ; and Ralph ssud to him: ''Since we are 
fellows for a good while, as I suppose, what shall I call 
thee ? " Said he, " Morfinn the Minstrel I hight, to serve 
thee, fair lord. Or some call me Morfinn the Unmanned 
Wilt thou not now ask me concerning that privy word 
that I had for thy ears ? " ^ Yea," said Ralph redden- 
ing, " hath it to do with a woman ? " ** Naught less," 
said Morfinn. '^ For I heard of thee asking many 
questions thereof in Goldburg, and I said to myself, 
now may I, who am bound for Uttemess, do a good 
turn to this fair young lord, whose face bewrayeth his 
heart, and telieth ail men that he is kind and boun- 
teous ; so that there is no doubt but he will reward me 
well at once for any help I may give him ; and also it 
may be that he will do me a good turn hereafter in 
memory of this that I have done him.'* 

31a 



" Speak, wilt thou not," said Ralph, " and tell me 
at once if thou hast seen this woman ? Be sure that I 
shall reward thee." *' Nay, nay, fair sir," s^d Morfinn ; 
" a woman I have seen brought captive to the House 
of Utterbol. See thou to it if it be she whom thou 
seekest." 

He smiled therewith, but now Ralph deemed him 
not so debonnaire as he had at first, for there was 
mocking in the smile ; therefore he was wroth, but he 
refrained him and said : *' Sir Minstrel, I wot not why 
thou hast come with a tale in thy mouth and it will 
not out of it : lo you, will this open the doors of speech 
to thee" (and he reached his hand out to him with two 
pieces of gold lying therein) " or shall this ? " and there- 
with he half drew his sword from his sheath. 

Said Morfinn, grinning again: ^ Nay, I fear not the 
bare steel in thine hand^ Knight ; for thou hast not 
fool written plain in thy face ; therefore thou wilt not 
slay thy way-leader, or even anger him over much. 
And as to thy gold, the wages shall be paid at the 
journey's end. I was but seeking about in my mind 
how best to tell thee my tale so that thou mightest 
believe my word, which is true. Thus it goes : As I 
left Utterbol a month ago, I saw a damsel brought in 
captive there, and she seemed to me so exceeding fair 
that I looked hard on her, and asked one of the men-at- 
arms who is my friend concerning the market whereat 
she was cheapened ; and he told me that she had not been 
bought, but taken out of the hands of the wild men 
from the further mountains. Is that aught like to 
your story, lord ? " " Yea," said Ralph, knitting his 
brows for eagerness. ** Well,*' said Morfinn, '* but 
there are more fair women than one in the world, and 
belike this is not thy friend : so now, as well as I may, 
I will tell thee what-like she was, and if thou knowest 
her not, thou mayst give me those two gold pieces and 
go back again. She was tall ^ther than short, and slim 



rather than bigly made. But many women are (sahioned 
so: and doubtless she was worn by travel, since she 
has at least come fix)m over the mountdns : but that is 
little to tell her by : her hands, and her feet also (for she 
was a horseback and barefoot) wrought well beyond 
most women : yet so might it have been with some : 
yet few, methinks, of women who have worked afield, 
as I deem her to have done, would have hands and feet 
so shapely : her face tanned with the sun^ but with fair 
colour shining through it; her hair brown, yet with a 
fsur bright colour shining therein^ and very abundant: 
her cheeks smooth^ round and well wrought as any 
imager could do them : her chin round imd cloven: 
her lips full and red, but firm-set as if she might be 
both valiant and wroth. Her eyes set wide apart, grey 
and deep : her whole face sweet of aspect, as though 
she might be exceeding kind to one that pleased her ; 
yet high and proud of demeanoiu* also, meseemed, as 
though she were come of great kindred. Is this aught 
like to thy fiiend ? " 

He spake all this slowly and smoothly and that 
mocking smile came into his face now and again. 
Ralph grew pale as he spoke and knitted his brows as one 
in great wrath and grief ; and he was slow to answer ; 
but at last he said " Yea," shortly and sharply. 

Then said Morfinn : " And yet after all it might not 
be she : for there might be another or two even in these 
parts of whom all this might be said. But now I will 
tell thee of her raiment, though there may be but little 
help to thee therein, as she may have shifted it many 
times since thou hast seen her. Thus it was : she was 
clad outwardly in a green gown, short of skirt as of one 
wont to go afoot ; somewhat straight in the sleeves 
as of one who hath household work to do, and there 
was broidery many coloured on the seams thereof, and 
a border of flower- work round the hem : and this I 
noted, that a cantle of the skirt had been rent away by 

314 



some hap of the journey. Now what sayest thou, fair 
lord ? Have I done well to bring thee this tale ? " 

*^ O yea, yea," said Ralph, and he might not contain 
himself; but set spurs to his horse and galloped on 
ahead for some furlong or so : and then drew rein and 
gat off his horse, and made as if he would see to his 
saddle-girths, for he might not refrain from weeping 
the sweet and bitter tears of desire and fear, so stirred 
the soul within him. 

Morfinn rode on quietly, and by then he came up, 
Ralph was mounting again, and when he was in the 
saddle he turned away his head from his fellow and 
said in a husky voice : '^ Morfinn, I command thee, or 
if thou wilt I beseech thee, that thou speak not to me 
again of this woman whom I am seeking ; for it moveth 
me over much." " That is well, lord," said Morfinn, 
" I will do after thy command ; and there be many 
other matters to speak of besides one fair woman." 

Then they rode on soberly a while, and Ralph kept 
silence, as he rode pondering much ; but the minstrel 
hummed snatches of rhyme as he rode the way. 

But at last Ralph turned to him suddenly and said : 
" Tell me, way-leader, in what wise did they seem to he 
using that woman ? " The minstrel chuckled : *' Fair 
lord," said he, '^ if I had a mind for mocking I might say 
of thee that thou blowest both hot and cold, since it was 
but half an hour ago that thou badest me speak naught 
of her: but I deem that I know thy mind herein: so I 
will tell thee that they seemed to be using her courte- 
ously ; as is no marvel ; for who would wish to mar so 
fair an image ? O, it will be well with her : I noted 
that the Lord seemed to think it good to ride beside 
her, and eye her all over. Yea, she shall have a merry 
life of it if she but do somewhat after the Lord's will" 

Ralph looked askance at him fiercely, but the other 
heeded it naught : then said Ralph, ^' And how if she 
do not his will ? " Said Morfinn, grinning : " Then 

3^5 



hath my Lord a many servants to do his wtU." Ralph 
held his peaoe for a long while ; at last he turned a 
cleared brow to Morfinn and said : ^ Dost thou tell 
of the Lord of Utterbol that he is a good lord and 
merciful to his folk and servants ? *' 

** Fair sir," said the minstrel ; '*thou hast bidden me 
not speak of one woman, now will I pray thee not to 
speak of one man, and that is my Lord of Utterbol." 

Ralph's heart fell at this word, and he asked no 
question as to wherefore. 

So now they rode on both, rather more than soberly 
for a while : but the day was fw- ; the sun shone, the 
wind blew, and the sweet scents floated about them, 
and Ralph's heart cast off its burden somewhat and 
he fell to speech again ; and the minstrel answered 
him gaily by seeming, noting many things as they 
rode along, as one that took delight in the fashion of 
the earth. 

It was a fresh and bright morning of early autumn, 
the sheaves were on the acres, and the grapes were 
blackening to the vintage, and the beasts and birds 
at least were merry. But little merry were the hus- 
bandmen whom they met, either carles or queans, and 
they were scantily and foully clad, and sullen-faced, 
if not hunger-pinched. 

If they came across any somewhat joyous, it was here 
and there certain gangrel folk resting on the wayside 
grass, or coming out of woods and other passes by 
twos and. threes, whiles with a child or two with them. 
These were of aspect like to the gipsies of our time 
and nation, and were armed all of them, and mosdy 
well clad after their fashion. Sometimes when there 
were as many as four or five carles of them together, 
they would draw up amidst of the highway, but pre- 
sently would turn aside at the sight either of Ralph's 
war-gear or of the minstrel's raiment Forsooth, 
some of them seemed to know him, and nodded 

316 



friendly to him as they passed by, but he gave them 
back no good day! 

They had now ridden out of the lands of Goldburg, 
which were narrow on that side, and the day was wear- 
ing fast. This way the land was fair and rich, with 
no hills of any size. They crossed a big river twice 
by bridges, and small streams often, mostly by fords. 

Some two hours before sunset they came upon a 
place where a byway joined the high road, and on the 
ingle stood a chaj^el of stone (whether of the heathen 
or Christian men Ralph wotted not, for it was uncouth 
of fashion), and by the door of the said chapel, on a 
tussock of grass, sat a knight all-armed save the head, 
and beside him a squire held his war-horse, and five 
other men-at-arms stood anigh bearing halberds and 
axes of strange fashion. The knight rose to his feet 
when he saw the wayfarers coming up the rising 
ground, and Ralph had his hand on his sword-hilt; 
but ere they met, the minstrel said, — 

" Nay, nay, draw thy let-pass, not thy sword. This 
knight shalt bid thee to a courteous joust ; but do 
thou nay-say it, for he is a mere felon, and shalt set 
his men-at-arms on thee, and then will rob thee and 
slay thee after, or cast thee into his prison." 

So Ralph drew out his parchment which Morfinn 
had given into his keeping, and held it open in his 
hand, and when the knight called out on him in a 
rough voice as they drew anigh, he said : '* Nay, sir, I 
may not stay me now, need driveth me on." Quoth 
the knight, smoothing out a knitted brow: " Fair sir, 
since thou art a friend of our lord, wilt thou not come 
home to my house, which is hard by, and rest awhile, 
and eat a morsel, and drink a cup, and sleep in a fair 
chamber thereafter ? " 

** Nay, sir," said Ralph, " for time presses ; " and he 
passed on withal, and the knight made no step to stay 
him, but laughed a short laugh, like a swine snorting, 

3^7 



and sat him down on the grass again. Ralph heeded 
him naught, but was glad that his let-pass was shown 
to be good for something ; but he could see that the 
minstrel was nigh sick for fear and was shaking like 
an aspen leaf, and it was long ere he found his tongue 
again. 

Forth then they rode till dusk, when the minstrel 
stayed Ralph at a place where a sort of hovels lay to- 
gether about a house somewhat better builded, which 
Ralph took for a hostelry, though it had no sign nor 
bush. They entered the said house, wherein was an 
old woman to whom the minstrel spake a word or 
two in a tongue that Ralph knew not, and straight- 
way she got them victual and drink nowise ill, and 
showed them to beds thereafter. 

In spite of both victuals and drink the minstrel fell 
silent and moody ; it might be from weariness, Ralph 
deemed ; and he himself had no great lust for talk, so 
he went bedward, and made the bed pay for all. 

CHAPTER XXXII. RALPH HAPPENS ON 
EVIL DAYS. 

EARLY on the morrow they departed, and now 
in the morning light and the sun the min- 
strel seemed glad again, and talked abundantly, 
even though at whiles Ralph answered him little. 

As they rode, the land began to get less fertile 
and less, till at last there was but tillage here and 
there in patches : of houses there were but few, and 
the rest was but dark heathland and bog, with scraggy 
woods scattered about the country-side. 

Naught happened to tell of, save that once in the 
afternoon, as they were riding up to the skirts of one 
of the woods aforesaid, weaponed men came forth 
from it and drew up across the way; they were a 
dozen in all, and four were horsed. Ralph set his 

318 



hand to his sword, but the minstrel cried out, '* Nay, 
no weapons, no weapons ! Pull out thy let-pass again 
and show it in thine hand, and then let us on." 

So saying he drew a white kerchief from his hand, 
and tied it to the end of his riding stafF, and so rode 
trembling by Ralph's side : therewith they rode on 
together towards those men, whom as they drew 
nearer they heard laughing and jeering at them, though 
in a tongue that Ralph knew not. 

They came so close at last that the waylayers could 
see the parchment clearly, with the seal thereon, and 
then they made obeisance to it, as though it were the 
relic of a saint, and drew ofF quietly into the wood one 
by one. These were big men, and savage-looking, 
and their armour was utterly uncouth. 

The minstrel was loud in his mirth when they were 
well past these men ; but Ralph rode on silently, and 
was somewhat soberly. 

*' Fair sir," quoth the minstrel, ** I would wager 
that I know thy thought." **Yea," said Ralph, 
** what is it then ? " S^d the minstrel : *' Thou art 
thinking what thou shalt do when thou meetest such- 
like folk on thy way back; but fear not, for with 
that same seal thou shalt pass through the land again." 
Said Ralph : ^ Yea, something like that, forsooth, was 
my thought Biit also I was pondering who should 
be my guide when I leave Utterbol." The niinstrel 
looked at him askance ; quoth he : ^' Thou mayst 
leave thinking of that awhile." Ralph looked hard 
at him, but could make naught of the look of his 
fece ; so he said : " Why dost thou say that ?" Said 
Morfinn : ^* Because I know whither thou art bound, 
and have been wondering this long while that thou hast 
asked me not about the way to the WELL at the 
WORLD'S END : since I told thy friend the mer- 
chant that I could tell thee somewhat concef ning it. But 
I suppose thou hast been thinking of something else ?" 

319 



**Well /' said Ralph, "tdl mc what thou hast to 
say of the Well/' Said Morfinn: ''This wiU I 
tell thee first : that if thou hast any doubt that 
such a place there is, thou mayst set that aside ; for 
we of IJttemess and Utterbol are sure thereof; and 
of all nations and peoples whereof we know, we deem 
that we are the nighest thereto. How sayest thou, 
is that not already something ? " *' Yea, verily,** said 
Ralph. ^ . 

" Now," said Morfinn, *' the next thing to be said 
is that we are on the road thereto : but the third thing 
again is this, lord, that though few who seek it find 
it, yet we know that some have failed not of it, besides 
that lord of Goldburg, of whom I know that thou hast 
heard. Furthermore, there dwelleth a sage in the 
woods not right far from Utterbol, a hermit living by 
himself ; and folk seek to him for divers lore, to be 
holpen by him in one way or other, and of him men 
say that he hath so much lore concerning the road to 
the Well (whether he hath been there lumself they 
know not certainly), that if he will, he can put anyone 
on the road so surely that he will not fail to come 
there, but he be slain on the way, as I said to thee 
in Goldburg. True it is that the said sage is chary 
of his lore, and if he think any harm of the seeker, he 
will show him naught ; but, fair sir, thou art so valiant 
and so goodly, and as meseemeth so good a knight 
per amours, that I deem it a certdn thing that he will 
tell thee the uttermost of his knowledge." 

Now again waxed Ralph eager concerning his 
quest ; for true it is that since he had had that story 
of the damsel from the minstrel, she had stood in the 
way before the Well at the World's End. But now 
he said : ^' And canst thou bring me to the said sage, 
good minstrel ? " " Without doubt," quoth Morfinn, 
" when we are once safe at Utterbol. From Utterbol 
ye may wend any road." 

3^0 



'* Yea," said Ralph, " and there are perils yet a few 
on the way, is it not so?" '*So it is/' sdd the 
minstrel ; " but to-morrow shall try all." Said Ralph : 
"And is there some special peril ahead to-morrow? 
And if it be so, what is it ? " Said his fellow : " It 
would avail thee naught to know it. What then^ doth 
that daunt thee?" *'No," said Ralph, **by then it 
is nigh enough to hurt us, we shall be nigh enough to 
see it." " Well said ! " quoth the minstrel ; " but now 
we must mend our pace, or dark night shall overtake 
us amid these rough ways." 

Wild as the land was, they came at even to a place 
where were a few houses of woodmen or hunters; 
and they got ofF their horses and knocked at the door 
of one of these, and a great black-haired carle opened 
to them, who, when he saw the knight's armour, 
would have clapped the door to again, had not Ralph 
by the minstrel's rede held out the parchment to him, 
who when he saw it became humble indeed, and gave 
them such guesting as he might, which was scant 
indeed of victual or drink, save wild-fowl from the 
heath. But they had wine with them from the last 
guest-house, whereof they bade the carle to drink; 
but he would not, and in all wise seemed to be in 
dread of them. 

When it was morning early thev rode their ways, 
and the carle seemed glad to be rid of them. After 
they had ridden a few miles the land bettered some- 
what ; there were islands of deep green pasture amidst 
the blackness of the heath, with cattle grazing on 
them, and here and there was a little tillage : the land 
was little better than level, only it swelled a little this 
way and that. It was a bright simny day and the air 
very clear, and as they rode Ralph said : " Quite clear 
is the sky, and yet one cloud there is far in the offing ; 
but this is strange about it, though I have been watch- 
ing it this half hour, and looking to see the rack come 

321 Y 



up from that quarter, yet it changes not at all. I 
never saw the Ukc of this cloud/' 

Said the minstrel : " Yea, fair sir, and of this cloud 
I must tell thee that it will change no more till the 
bones of the earth are tumbled together. Forsooth 
this is no cloud, but the topmost head of the moun- 
tain ridge which men call the Wall of the World : and 
if ever thou come close up to the said Wall, that shall 
fear thee, I deem, however fearless thou be." ** Is it 
nigh to Uttemess?" said Ralph. "Nay," said the 
minstrel, ''not so nigh; for as huge as it seemeth 
thence." 

Said Ralph : « Do folk tell that the Well at the 
World's End lieth beyond it?" ''Surely," said the 
minstrel. 

S^d Ralph, his face flushing : " Forsooth, that 
ancient lord of Goldburg came through those moun- 
tains, and why not I .? " " Yea," said the minstrel, 
" why not ? " And therewith he looked uneasily on 
Ralph, who heeded his looks naught, for his mind was 
set on high matters. 

On then they rode, and when trees or some dip in 
the land hid that mountain top from them, the way 
seemed long to Ralph. 

Naught befell to tell of for some while ; but at last, 
when it was drawing towards evening again, they had 
been riding through a thick pine-wood for a long 
while, and coming out of it they beheld before them 
a plain country fairly well grassed, but lo ! on the field 
not far from the roadside a pavilion pitched and a 
bannef on the top thereof, but the banner hung down 
about the staff, so that the bearing was not seen : and 
about this pavilion, which was great and rich of 
fashion, were many tents great and small, and there 
were horses tethered in the field, and men moving 
about and the gleam of armour. 

At this sight the minstrel drew rein and stared 

322 



about him wildly ; but Ralph said : " What is this, is 
it the peril aforesaid ? " " Yea," quoth the minstrel, 
shivering with fear. ** What aileth thee ?" said Ralph; 
" have we not the let-pass, what then can befall us? If 
this be other than the Lord of Utterbol, he will see 
our let-pass and let us done; or if it be he indeed, 
what harm shall he do to the bearers of his own pass ? 
Come on then, or else (and therewith he half drew 
his sword) is this Lord of Utterbol but another name 
for the Devil in Hell?" 

But the minstrel still stared wild and trembled; 
then he stammered out : " I thought I should bring 
thee to Uttemess first, and that some other should 
lead thee thence, I did not look to see him. I dare 
not, I dare not ! O look, look ! " 

As he spake the wind arose and ran along the 
wood-side, and beat back from it and stirred the 
canvas of the tents and raised the folds of the banner, 
and blew it out, so that the bearing was clear to sec ; 
yet Ralph deemed it naught dreadful, but an armoury 
fit for a baron, to wit, a black bear on a castle-wall on 
a field of gold. 

But as Ralph sat on his horse gazing, himseemed 
that men were looking towards him, and a great horn 
was sounded hard by the pavilion ; then Ralph looked 
toward the minstrel fiercely, and laughed and said: 
** I see now that thou art another traitor : so get thee 
gone ; I have more to do than the slaying of thee/' 
And therewith he turned his horse's head, and smote 
the spurs into the sides of him, and went a great 
gallop over the field on the right side of the road, 
away from the gay pavilion ; but even therewith came a 
half-score of horsemen from the camp, as if they were 
awaiting him, and they spurred after him straightway. 

The race was no long one, for Ralph's beast 
was wearied, and the other horses were fresh, and 
Ralph knew naught of the country before him, 

3^3 



whereas those riders knew it well. Therefore it was 
but a few minutes till they came up with him, and he 
made no show of defence, but suffered them to lead 
him away, and he crossed the highway, where he saw 
no token of the minstrel. 

So they brought him to the pavilion, and made 
him dismount and led him in. The dusk had fallen 
by now, but within it was all bright with candles. 
The pavilion was hung with rich silken cloth, and 
at the further end, on a carpet of the hunting, was an 
ivory chkir, whereon sat a man, who was the only one 
sitting. He was clad in a gown of blue silk, broidered 
with roundels beaten with the Bear upon the Castle- 
wall. 

Ralph deemed that this must be no other than the 
Lord of Utterbol, yet after all the tales he had heard 
of that lord, he seemed no such terrible man : he was 
short of stature, but broad across the shoulders, his 
hair long, strait, and dark brown of hue, and his beard 
scanty : he was straight-featured and smooth-faced, 
and had been no ill-looking man, save that his skin 
was sallow and for his eyes, which were brown, small, 
and somewhat bloodshot. 

Beside him stood Morfinn bowed down with fear 
and not daring to look either at the Lord or at Ralph. 
Wherefore he knew for certain that when he had 
called him traitor even now, that it was no more than 
the very sooth, and that he had fallen into the trap ; 
though how or why he wotted not clearly. Well then 
might his heart have fallen, but so it was, that when 
he looked into the fece of this Lord, the terror of the 
lands, hatred of him so beset his heart that it swallowed 
up fear in him. Albeit he held himself well in hand, 
for his soul was waxing, and he deemed that he should 
yet do great deeds, therefore he desired to live, what- 
soever pains or shame of the passing day he might 
suffer. 

3^4 



Now this mighty lord spake, and his voice was 
harsh and squeaking, so that the sound of it was 
worse than the sight of his face ; and he said : '^ Bring 
the man forth, that I may see him.'* So they brought 
up Ralph, till he was eye to eye with the Lord, who 
turned to Morfinn and said : '' Is this thy catch, lucky 
man ? " *' Yea," quavered Morfinn, not lifting his 
eyes ; " Will he do, lord ? " 

" Do ? " said the lord, " How can I see him when 
he is all muffled up in steel ? Ye fools ! dofF his war- 
gear." 

Speedily then had they stripped Ralph of hauberk, 
and helm, and arm and leg plates, so that he stood up 
in his jerkin and breeches, and the lord leaned forward 
to look on him as if he were cheapening a horse ; and 
then turned to a man somewhat stricken in years, cjad 
in scarlet, who stood on his other hand, and said to 
him : "Well, David the Sage, is this the sort of man ? 
Is he goodly enough ? " 

Then the elder put on a pair of spectacles and eyed 
Ralph curiously a while, and then s^d : '^ There are 
no two words to be said about it ; he is as goodly and 
well-fashioned a young man as was ever sold.'' 

*' Well," said the lord, turning towards Morfinn, 
** the catch is good, lucky man : David will give 
thee gold for it, and thou mayst go back west wtien 
thou wilt. And thou must be lucky again, moreover ; 
because there are women needed ror my house ; and 
they must be goodly and meek, and not crievously 
marked with stripes, or branded, so that tnou hadst 
best take them, luckily if thou mayst, and not buy 
them. No\tr go, for there are more than enough men 
under this woven roof, and we need no half-men to 
boot." 

Said David, the old man, grinninc : " He will hold 
him well paid if he go unscathed from before thee, 
lord : for he looked not to meet thee here, but thought 

325 



to bring the young man to Uttemess, that he might 
be kept there till thou camest." 

The lord said, grimly : ^' He is not far wrong to 
fear me, maybe : but he shall go for this time. But if 
he bring me not those women within three months' 
wearing, and if there be but two uncomely ones 
amongst them, let him look to it. Give him his 
gold, David. Now take ye the new man, and let 
him rest, and give him meat and drink. And look 
you, David, if he be not in condition when he cometh 
home to Utterbol, thou shalt pay for it in one way 
or other, if not in thine own person, since thou art 
old, and deft of service, then through those that be 
dear to thee. Go now ! " 

David smiled on Ralph and led him out uiito a tent 
not far off, and there he made much of him, and 
bade bring meat and drink and all he needed. Withal 
he bade him not to try fleeing, lest he be slain ; and 
he showed him how nigh the guards were and how 
many. 

Glad was the old man when he saw the captive put 
a good face on matters, and that he was not down- 
hearted. In sooth that hatred of the tyrant mingled with 
hope sustained Ralph's heart. He had been minded 
when he was brought before the lord to have shown 
the letter of the Queen of Goldburg, and to defy him 
if he still held him captive. But when he had beheld him 
and his fellowship a while he thought better of it. 
For though they had abundance or rich plenishing, 
and^gay raiment, and good weapons and armour, how- 
beit of strange and uncouth fashion, yet he deemed 
when he looked on them that they would scarce have 
the souls of men in their bodies, but that they were 
utterly vile through and through, like the shapes of 
an evil dream. Therefore he thought shame of it to 
show the Queen's letter to them, even as if he had 
shown to them the very naked body of her, who had 

3^6 



been so piteous kind to him. Also he had no mind 
to wear his heart on his sleeve, but would keep his 
own counsel 9 and let his foemen speak and show what 
was in their minds. For this cause he now made 
himself sweet, and was of good cheer with old David, 
deeming him to be a great man there ; as indeed he was, 
being the chief counsellor of the Lord of Utterbol ; 
though forsooth not so much his counsellor as that he 
durst counsel otherwise than as the Lord desired to go ; 
unless he thought that it would bring his said Lord, and 
therefore himself, to very present peril and damage. 
In short, though this man had not been bought for 
money, he was little better than a thrall of tHe higher 
sort, as forsooth were all the Lord's men, saving the 
best and trustiest of his warriors : and these were men 
whom the Lord somewhat feared himself : though, on 
the other hand, he could not but know that they under- 
stood how the dread of the Lord of Utterbol was a 
shield to them, and that if it were to die out amongst 
men, their own skins were not worth many days' 
purchase. 

So then David spake pleasantly with Ralph, and 
ate and drank with him, and saw that he was well 
bedded for the night, and left him in the first watch. 
But Ralph lay down in little more trouble than the 
night before, when, though he were being led friendly 
to Utterness, yet he had not been able to think what 
he should do when he came there : whereas now he 
thought: Who knoweth what shall betide? and for 
me there is nought to do save to lay hold of the 
occasion that another may give me. And at the 
worst I scarce deem that I am being led to the 
slaughter. 



327 



CHAPTER XXXIII. RALPH IS BROUGHT 
ON THE ROAD TOWARDS UTTERBOL. 

BUT now when it was morning they struck the 
tents and laded them on wain% and went their 
ways the selfsame road that Ralph had been 
minded for yesterday ; to wit the road to Uttemess ; 
but now must he ride it unarmed and guarded: other 
shame had he none. Indeed David, who stuck close to his 
side all day, was so sugary sweet with him^ and pndsed 
and encouraged him so diligently, that Ralph began to 
have misgivings that all this kindness was but as the 
flower-garlands wherewith in heathen times men were 
wont to deck the slaughter-beasts for the blood-ofier- 
ing. Yea, and into his mind came certain tales of how 
there were heaven men yet in the world, who beguiled 
men and women, and offered them up to their devils, 
whom they called gods : but all this ran oflF him soon, 
when he bethought him how little wisdom there was in 
running to meet the evil, which might be on the way, 
and that way a rough and perilous one. So he plucked 
up heart, and spake freely and gaUy with David and 
one or two others who rode anigh. 

They were amidst of the company : the Lord went 
first after his fore-runners in a litter done about with 
precious cloths ; and two score horsemen came next, 
fully armed after their manner. Then rode Ralph with 
David and a half dozen of the magnates : thenr came 
a sort of cooks and other serving men, but none with- 
out a weapon, and last another score of men-at-arms : 
so that he saw that fleeing was not to be thought of 
though he was not bound, and save for lack of weapons 
rode like a free man. 

The day was clear as yesterday had been, wherefore 
again Ralph saw the distant mountain-top like a cloud; 
and he gazed at it long till David said : '^ I see that 
thou art gazing hard at the mountains, and perchance 

3^8 



art longing to be beyond them, were it but to see what 
like the land is on the further side. If all tales be true 
thou art best this side thereof, whatever thy lot may 
be." 

'* Lieth death on the other side then ? " quoth 
Ralph. " Yea," s^d David, " but that is not all, since 
he is not asleep elsewhere in the world : but men say 
that over there are things to be seen which might slay a 
strong man for pure fear, without stroke of sword or 
dint of axe." 

" Yea," said Ralph, ** but how was it then with him 
thatbuildedGoldburg?" 

"O," said David, "hast thou heard that tale? 
Well, they say of him, who certes went over those 
mountains, and drank of the Well at the World's End, 
that he was one of the lucky : yet for all his luck never 
had he drunk the draught had he not been helped by 
one who had learned many things, a woman to wit. 
For he was one of them with whom all women are in 
love ; and thence indeed was his luck. . . . Moreover, 
when all is said, 'tis but a tale." 

" Yea," quoth Ralph laughing, *^ even as the tales 
of the ghosts and bugs that abide the wayfarer on the 
other side of yonder white moveless cloud.'* 

David laughed in his turn and said: ^'Thou hast 
me there ; and whether or no, these tales are nothing 
to us, who shall never leave Utterbol again while we 
live, sa^e in such a company as this." Then he held 
his peace, but presently spake again : '^ Hast thou heard 
anything, then, of those tales of the Well at the 
World's End ? I mean others beside that concerning 
the lord of Goldburg." 

" Yea, surely I have," said Ralph, nowise changing 
countenance. Said David : ** Deemest thou aught of 
them ? deemest thou that it may be true that a man 
may drink of the Well and recover his youth thereby ?" 

Ralph laughed and said : '^ Master, it is rather for 

329 



me to ask thee hereof, than thou me, since thou dwellcst 
so much Higher thereto than I have done heretofore." 

David drew up close to him, and said softly : ** Nigher ? 
Yea, but belike not so much nigher." 

" How meanest thou ? " said Ralph. 

Said David : " Is it so nigh that a man may leave 
home and come thereto in his life-time ? " 

** Yea," said Ralph, '* in my tales it is." 

Said the old man still softiier : ** Had I deemed that 
true I had tried the adventure, whatever might lie be- 
yond the mountdns, but (and he sighed withal) I deem 
it untrue." 

Therewith dropped the talk of that matter : and in 
sooth Ralph was loath to make many words thereof, lest 
his eagerness shine through, and all the story of him be 
known. 

Anon it was noon, and the lord bade all men stay 
for meat : so his serving men busied them about his 
dinner, and David went with them. Then the men- 
at-arms bade Ralph sit among them and share their 
meat. So they sat down all by the wayside, and they 
spake kindly and friendly to Ralph, and especially their 
captain, a man somewhat low of stature, but long-armed 
like the Lord, a man of middle age, beardless and spare ^ 
of body, but wiry and tough-looking, with hair of the 
hue of the dust of a sandstone quarry. This man fell 
a-talking with Ralph, and asked him of the manner of 
tilting and courteous jousting between knights in the 
countries of knighthood, till that talk dropped between 
them. Then Ralph looked round upon the land, which 
had now worsened again, and was little better than 
rough moorland, little fed, and not at all tilled, and 
he said: "This is but a sorry land for earth's in- 



crease." 



" Well," said the captain, " I wot not ; it beareth 
plover and whimbrel and conies and hares ; yea, and 
men withal, some few. And whereas it beareth naught 

330 



else, that cometh of my lord's will : for deemest thou 
that he should suffer a rich land betwixt him and Gold- 
burg, that it might sustain an host big enough to deal 
with him?" 

*' But is not this his land ? " said Ralph. 

Said the captain: ^^ Nay, and also yea. None shall 
dwell in it save as he willeth, and they shall pay him 
tribute, be it never so little. Yet some there are of 
them, who are to him as the hounds be to the hunter, 
and these same he even wageth, so that if aught rare 
and goodly cometh their way they shall bring it to 
his hands ; as thou thyself knowest to thy cost." 

" Yea," said Ralph smiling, '* and is Morfinn the 
Unmanned one of these curs ? " " Yea," said the 
capt^n, with a grin, ^ and one of the richest of them, 
in despite of his fiddle and minstrel's gear, and his lack 
of manhood: for he is one of the cunningest of men. 
But my Lord unmanned him for some good reason." 

Ralph kept silence a while and then said : *' Why 
doth the Goldburg folk suffer all this felony, robbery 
and confusion, so near their borders, and the land 
debateable ? " 

Said the captain, and again he grinned : '^ Passing 
for thy hard words, sir knight, why dost thou suffer 
me to lead thee along whither thou wouldest not ? " 

" Because I cannot help myself," said Ralph. 

Said the captain : ^' Even so it is with the Goldburg 
folk : if they raise hand against some of these strong- 
thieves or man-stealers, he has but to send the war-arrow 
round about these deserts, as ye deem them, and he will 
presently have as rough a company of carles for his 
fellows as need be, say ten hundred of them. And the 
Goldburg folk are not very handy at a fray without 
their walls. Forsooth within them it is another matter, 
and beside not even our our Lord of Uttcrbol would 
see Goldburg broken down, no, not for all that he might 
win there." 

33^ 



^ Is it deemed a holy place in the land, then ? '' said 
Ralph. 

" I wot not the meaning of holy," said the other : 
"but all we deem that when Goldburg shall fall, the 
world shall change, so that living therein shall be hard 
to them that have not drunk of the water of the Well 
at the World's End." 

Ralph was silent a while and eyed the captain 
curiously : then he said : " Have the Goldburgers so 
drunk ? " Said the captain : *^ Nay, nay ; but the word 
goes that under each tower of Goldburg lieth a youth 
and a maiden that have drunk of the water, and might 
not die save by point and edge." 

Then was Ralph silent again, for once more he fell 
pondering the matter if he had been led away to be 
offered as a blood offering to some of evil gods of the 
land. But as he pondered a flourish of trumpets was 
blown, and all men sprang up, and the captain said to 
Ralph : ** Now hath our Lord done his dinner and we 
must to horse." Anon they were on the way again, 
and they rode long and saw little change in the a^>ect 
of the land, neither did that cloudlike token of the 
distant mountains grow any greater or clearer to Ralph's 
deeming. 



CHAPTER XXXIV. THE LORD OF UT- 
TERBOL WILL WOT OF RALPH'S MIGHT 
AND MINSTRELSY. 

A LITTLE before sunset they made halt for 
the night, and Ralph was shown to a tent as 
erst, and had meat and drink good enough 
brought to him. But somewhat after he had done 
eating comes David to him and says : " Up, young 
man ! and come to my lord, he asketh for thee." 
^ What will he want with me ? " said Ralph. 

33^ 



^ Yea, that is a proper question to ask ! '' quoth 
David ; '^ as though the knife should ask the cutler, 
what wilt thou cut with me ? Dost thou deem that I 
durst ask him of his will with thee ? " ** I am ready to 
go with thee," said Ralph. 

So they went forth ; but Ralph's heart fell and he 
sickened at the thought of seeing that man again. 
Nevertheless he set his face as brass, and thrust back 
both his fear and his hatred for a fitter occasion. 

Soon they came into the pavilion of the Lord, who 
was sitting there as yester eve, save that his gown was 
red, and done about with gold and turquoise and eme- 
rald. David brought Ralph nigh to his seat, but 
spake not. The mighty lord was sitting with his 
head drooping, and his arm hanging over his knee, 
with a heavy countenance as though he were brooding 
matters which pleased him naught. But in a while he 
sat up with a start, and turned about and saw David 
standing there with Ralph, and spake at once like a 
man waking up : *' He that sold thee to me said that 
thou wert of avail for many things. Now tell me, 
what canst thou do ? " 

Ralph so hated him, that he was of half a mind to 
answer naught save by smiting him to slay him ; but 
there was no weapon anigh, and life was sweet to him 
with all the tale that was lying ahead. So he answered 
coldly : ** It is sooth, lord, that I can do more than 
one deed." 

" Canst thou back a horse ? " said the Lord. Said 
Ralph : "As well as many." Said the Lord : " Canst 
thou break a wild horse, and shoe him, and physic 
him ? " 

" Not worse than some," said Ralph. 

" Can'st thou play with sword and spear ? " said the 
Lord. 

" Better than some few," said Ralph. " How shall 
I know that ?" said the Lord. Said Ralph : " Try me, 

333 



lord !" Indeed) he half hoped that if it came to that* 
he might escape in the hurley. 

The Lord looked on him and said : " Well, it may 
be tried. But here is a cold and proud answerer, 
David. I misdoubt me whether it be worth while 
bringing him home." 

David Jooked timidly on Ralph and said : ^' Thou 
hast paid the price for him, lord." 

'' Yea, that is true," said the Lord. " Thou ! can'st 
thou play at the chess ? " '' Yea," said Ralph. 
** Can'st thou music ? " said the other. *' Yea,*' s^d 
Ralph, " when I am merry, or whiles indeed when 1 
am sad." 

The lord said : " Make thyself merry or sad, which 
thou wilt; but sing, or thou shalt be beaten. Ho! 
Bring ye the harp." Then they brought it as he bade. 

But Ralph looked to right and left and saw no de- 
liverance, and knew this for the first hour of his thrall- 
dom. Yet, as he thought of it all, he remembered that 
if he would do, he must needs bear and forbear ; and 
his face cleared, and he looked round about again and 
let his eyes rest calmly on all eyes that he met till they 
came on the Lord's face again. Then he let his hand 
fall into the strings and they fell a-tinkling sweetly, 
like unto the song of the winter robin, and at last he 
lifted up his voice and sang : 

Still now is the stithy this morning unclouded. 
Nought stirs in the thorp save the yellow-haired maid 
A-peeling the withy last Candlemas shrouded 
From the mere where the moorhen now swims un- 
afraid. 

For over the Ford now the grass and the clover 

Fly off from the tines as the wind driveth on ; 

And soon round the Sword-howe the swathe shall lie 

over. 
And to-morrow at even the mead shall be won. 

334 



But the Hall of the Garden amidst the hot morning, 
It drew my feet thither ; I stood at the door, 
And felt my heart harden 'gainst wisdom and warning 
As the sun and my footsteps came on to the floor. 

When the sun lay behind me, there scarce in the dim- 
ness 
I saw what I sought for, yet trembled to find ; 
But it came forth to find me^ until the sleek slimness 
Of the summer-clad woman made summer o'er kind. 

There we the once-sundered together were blended. 
We strangers, unknown once, were hidden by naught. 
I kissed and I wondered how doubt was all ended. 
How friendly her excellent fairness was wrought. 



Round the hall of the Garden the hot sun is burning, 
But no master nor minstrel goes there in the shade. 
It hath never a warden till comes the returning. 
When the moon shall hang high and all winds shall 
be laid. 

Waned the day and I hied me afield, and thereafter 

I sat with the mighty when daylight was done. 

But with great men beside me, midst high-hearted 

laughter, 
I deemed me of all men the gainfullest one. 

To wisdom I hearkened; for there the wise father 
Cast the seed of his learning abroad o'er the hall, 
Till men's faces darkened, but mine gladdened rather 
With the thought of the knowledge I knew over all. 

Sang minstrels the story, and with the song's welling 
Men looked on each other and glad were they grown, 
But mine was the glory of the tale and its telling 
How the loved and the lover were naught but mine own. 

335 



When he was done all kept silence till they should 
know whether the lord should praise the song or blame; 
and he said naught for a good while, but sat as if pon- 
dering : but at last he spake : ** Thou art young, and 
would that we were young also ! Thy song is sweet, 
and it pleaseth me, who am a man of war^ and have 
seen enough and to spare of rough work, and would 
any day rather see a fair woman than a band of spears. 
But it shall please my lady wife less : for of love, and 
fair women, and their lovers she hath seen enough ; but 
of war nothing save its shows and pomps ; wherefore 
she desireth to hear thereof. Now sing of battle 1 " 
Ralph thought awhile and began to smite the harp 
while he conned over a song which he had learned one 
yule-tide from a chieftain who had come to Upmeads 
from the far-away Northland, and had abided there 
till spring was waning into summer, and meanwhile he 
taught Ralph this song and many things else, and his 
name was Sir Karr Wood-neb. This song now Ralph 
sang loud and sweet, though he were now a thrall in 
an alien land : 

Leave we the cup ! 

For the moon is up. 

And bright is the gleam 

Of the rippling stream. 

That runneth his road 

To the old abode, 

Where the walls are white 

In the moon and the night ; 

The house of the neighbour that drave us away 

When strife ended labour amidst of the hay. 

And no road for our riding was left us but one 

Where the hill's brow is hiding that earth's ways are 

done. 
And the sound of the billows comes up at the last 
Like the wind in the willows ere autumn is past 

336 



But oft and again 

Comes the ship from the main. 

And we came once more 

And no lading we tx>re 

But the point and the edge, 

And the ironed ledge. 

And the bolt and the bow. 

And the banc of the foe. 

To the House 'neath the mountain we came in the 

mom. 
Where welleth the fountain up over the corn. 
And the stream is a-running rast on to the House 
Of the neighbours uncunning who quake at the mouse, 
As their slumber is broken ; they know not for why ; 
Since yestreen was no token on earth or in sky. 

Come^ up, then up ! 

Leave board and cup. 

And follow the gleam 

Of the glittering stream 

That leadeth the road 

To the old abode, 

High-walled and white 

In the moon and the night ; 

Where low lies the neighbour that drave us away 

Sleep-sunk from his labour amidst of the hay. 

No road for our riding is left us save .one. 

Where the hiUs' brow is hiding the city undone. 

And the wind in the willows is with us at las^ 

And the house of the billows is done and o'er-past. 

Haste ! mount and haste 
Ere the short night waste. 
For night and day. 
Late turned away. 
Draw nigh again 
All kissing-fain ; 

337 ^ 



And the morn and the moon 
Shall be married full soon. 
So ride we together with wealth-winning wand. 
The steel o'er the leather, the ash in the hand. 
Lo ! white walls before us, and high are they built; 
But the luck that outwore us now lies on their guHt; 
Lo ! the open gate biding the first of the sun. 
And to peace are we riding when slaughter is done. 

When Ralph had done singing, all folk fell to 
praising his song, whereas the Lord had praised the 
other one; but the Lord said, looking at Ralph askance 
meanwhile : ^^ Yea, if that pleaseth me not, and I take 
but little keep of it, it shall please my wife to her 
heart's root ; and that is the first thing. Hast thoo 
others good store, new-comer ? " " Yea, lord," said 
Ralph. '^ And canst thou tell tales of yore agone, and 
of the fays and such-like ? All that she must have." 
" Some deal I can of that lore," said Ralph. 

Then the Lord sat silent, and seemed tq be ponder- 
ing : at last he said, as if to himself: ** Yet there is 
one thing : many a blencher can sing of battle ; and 
it hath been seen, that a fair body of a man is whiles 
soft amidst the hard hand-play. Thou! Morfinn's 
luck ! art thou of any use in the tilt-yard ? " " Wilt 
thou try me, lord ? " said Ralph, looking somewhat 
brisker. Said the Lord : " I deem that I may find a 
man or two for thee, though it is not much our 
manner here ; but now go thou ! David, take the lad 
away to his tent, and get him a flask of wine of the 
best to help out thy maundering with him." 

Therewith they left the tent, and Ralph walked by 
David sadly and with hanging head at first ; but in a 
while he called to mind that, whatever betid, his life 
was safe as yet; that every day he was drawing 
nigher to the Well at the World's End ; and that it 
was most like that he shall fall in with that Dorothea 

338 






of his dream somewhere on the way thereto. So he 
lifted up his head again, and was singing to himself as 
he stooped down to enter into his tent. 

Next day naught happed to teU of save that they 
journeyed on ; the day was cloudy, so that Ralph saw 
no sign of the distant mountains; ever the land was 
the same, but belike somewhat more beset with pine- 
woods ; they saw no folk at all on the road. So at 
even Ralph slept in his ten^ and none meddled with 
him, save that David came to talk with him or he 
slept, and was merry and blithe with him, and he 
brought with him Otter, the captain of the guard, 
who was good company. 

Thus wore three days that were hazy and cloudy, 
and the Lord sent no more for Ralph, who on the 
road spake for the more part with Otter, and liked 
him not ill ; howbeit it seemed of him that he would 
make no more of a man's life than of a rabbit's 
according as his lord might bid slay or let live. 

The diree hazy days past, it fell to rain for four 
days, so that Ralph could see little of the face of the 
land ; but he noted that they went up at whiles, and 
never so much down as up, so that they were wending 
up hill on the whole. . 

On the ninth day of his captivity the rain ceased 
and it was sunny and warm but somewhat hazy, so 
that naught could be seen afar, but the land near-hand 
rose in long, low downs now, and was quite treeless, 
save where was a hollow here and there and a stream 
running through it, where grew a few willows, but 
alders more abundantly. 

This day he rode by Otter, who said presently: 
" Well, youngling of the North, to-morrow we shall see 
a new game, thou and I, if the weather be fair." ** Yea," 
said Ralph, "and what like shall it be ?" Said Otter, 
" At mid-mom we shall come into a fair dale amidst 
the downs, where be some houses and a tower of the 

339 



Lord's, so that that place is called the Dale of tk 
Tower : there shall we abide a while to gather victual, 
a day or two, or three maybe : so my Lord will holdi 
tourney there : that is to say that I myself and some few 
others shall try thy manhood somewhat." '* What?" 
said Ralph, ^^ are the new colt's paces to be proven f 
And how if he faU?" 

Quoth Otter, laughing: ^'Fail not, I rede thee, or 
my lord's love for thee shall be something less than 
nothing." " And then will he slay me ? " sud Ra^ 
Said Otter : '^ Nay I deem not, at least not at first: he 
will have thee home to Uttertx)l, to make the most of 
his bad bargain, and there shalt thou be a mere serving- 
thrall, either in the house or the field : where tboii 
shalt be well-fed (save in times of scarcity), and 
belike well beaten withal." Said Ralph, somewhit 
downcast : '* Yea, I am a thrall, who was once a knigfat 
But how if thou fail before me ? " Otter laughed again: 
" That is another matter ; whatever I do my Lord will 
not lose me if he can help it ; but as for the othcfs 
who shall stand before thy valiancy, there will be some 
who will curse the day whereon my lord bought thcc, 
if thou tumest out a good spear, as ye call it in your 
lands. Howsoever, that is not thy business ; and I 
bid thee fear naught; for thou seemest to be t 
mettle lad." 

So they talked, and that day wore like the others, 
but the haze did not clear off, and the sun went down 
red. In the evening David talked with Ralph in his 
tent, and said : '* If to-morrow be clear, knight, thou 
shalt see a new sight when thou comest out from the 
canvas." Said Ralph : " I suppose thy meaning is 
that we shall see the mountains from hence ? " '^ Yea," 
said David ; ** so hold up thine heart when that sight 
first Cometh before thine eyes. As for us, we are iwed 
to the sight, and that from a place much nigher to the 
mountains : yet they who are soft-hearted amongst as 

340 



are overcome at whiles, when there is storm and 
tempest, and evil tides at hand." 

Said Ralph : " And how far then are we from Utter- 
bol? " Said David : "After we have left Bull-mead in 
the Dale of the Tower, where to-morrow thou art to 
run with the spear, it is four days' ride to Uttemess ; 
and from Utterness ye may come (if my lord will) unto 
Utterbol in twelve hours. But tell me, knigh^ how 
deemest thou of thy tilting to-morrow ? " Said Ralph : 
^ Little should I think of it,if little lay upon it." *' Yea," 
said David, ''but art thou a good tilter?" Ralph 
laughed : quoth he, *' That hangs on the goodness of 
him that tilteth against me : I have both overthrown^ 
and been overthrown oft enough. Yet again, who 
shall judge me ? for I must tell thee, that were I fairly 
judgoi, I should be deemed no ill spear, even when I 
came not uppermost : for in all these games are haps 
which no man may foresee." 

"Well then," said David, " all will go weU with thee 
for his time : for my lord will judge thee, and if it be 
seen that thou hast spoken truly, and art more than a 
little deft at the play, he will be like to make the best 
of thee, since thou art already pdd for." Ralph 
laughed : yet as though the jest pleased him but 
little ; and they fell to talk of other matters. And 
so David departed, and Ralph slept. 

CHAPTER XXXV. RALPH COMETH TO 
THE VALE OF THE TOWER. 

BUT when it was morning Ralph awoke, and saw 
that the sun was shining brightly ; so he cast 
his shirt on him, and went out at once, and 
turned his face eastward, and, scarce awake, said to 
himself that the clouds lay heavy in the eastward 
heavens after last night's haze : but presently his 
eyes cleared, and he saw that what he had taken for 

341 



clouds was a huge wall of mountains, black and ter- 
rible, that rose up sharp and clear into the mombg 
air ; for there was neither cloud nor mist in all the 
heavens. 

Now Ralph, though he were but little used to the 
sight of great mountains, yet felt his heart rather 
rise than fall at the sight of them ; for he said : ** Surely 
beyond them lieth some new thing for me, life or 
death : fsdr fame or the forgetting of all men." And 
it was long that he could not take his eyes off* them. 

As he looked, came up the Captain Otter, and 
said : ** WeU, Knight, thou hast seen them this morn, 
even if ye die ere nightfall." Said Ralph : " What 
deemest thou to lie beyond them ? " 

" Of us none knoweth surely," said Otter ; ** whiles 
I deem that if one were to get to the other ^de there 
would be a great pl^n like to this : whiles that there is 
naught save mountains beyond, and yet again moun- 
tains, like the waves of a huge stone sea. Or whiles I 
think that one would come to an end of the world, to a 
place where is naught but a ledge, and then below it 
a gulf filled with nothing but the howling of winds, and 
the depth of darkness. Moreover this is my thought, 
that all we of these parts should be milder men and of 
better conditions, if yonder terrible wall were away. 
It is as if we were thralls of the great mountains." 

Said Ralph, '' Is this then the WaU of the World ? " 
" It may well be so," said Otter ; " but this word is 
at whiles said of something else, which no man alive 
amongst us has yet seen. It is a part of the tale of the 
seekers for the Well at the World's End, whereof we 
said a word that other day." 

** And the Dry Tree," said Ralph, ** knowest thou 
thereof? " said Ralph. ** Such a tree, much bewor- 
shipped," said Otter, " we have, not very far from 
Utterbol, on the hither side of the mountains. Yet I 
have heard old men say that it is but a toy, and an 

34a 



image of that which is verily anigh the Weil at the 
World's End. But now haste thee to do on thy 
raiment^ for we must needs get to horse in a little 
while." " Yet one more word," said Ralph ; ** thou 
sayest that none alive amongst you have seen the 
Wall of the World ? " '' None alive," quoth Otter ; 
'^ forsooth what the dead may see, that is another 
question." Said Ralph : " But have ye not known of 
any who have sought to the Well from this land, which 
is so nigh thereunto? " " Such there have been," said 
Otter ; " but if they found it, they found something 
beyond it, or came west again by some way else than 
by Utterbol ; for they never came back again to us." 

Therewith he turned on his heel, and went his 
ways, and up came David and one with him bringing 
victual ; and David said : " Now, thou lucky one, here 
is come thy breakfast ! for we shall presently be on 
our way. Cast on thy raiment, and eat and strengthen 
thyself for the day's work. Hast thou looked well 
on the mountains ? " '* Yea," s^d Ralph, " and the 
sight of them has made me as little downhearted as 
thou art. For thou art joyous of mood this morning." 
David nodded and smiled, and looked so merry that 
Ralph wondered what was toward. Then he went 
into his tent and clad himself, and ate his breakfast, 
and then gat to horse and rode betwixt two of the 
men-at-arms, he and Otter; for David was ridden 
forward to speak with the Lord. Otter talked ever 
g^ly enough ; but Ralph heeded him little a while, 
but had his eyes ever on the mountains, and could see 
that for all they were so dark, and filled up so much 
of the eastward heaven, they were so far away that he 
could see but little of them save that they were dark 
blue and huge, and one rising up behind the other. 

Thus they rode the down country, till at last, two 
hours before noon, coming over the brow of a long 
down, they had before them a shallow dale, plcasanter 

343 



than aught they had yet seen. It was well-grassed, 

and a little river ran through it, from which went 

narrow leats held up by hatches, so that the more part 

of the valley tx>ttom was a water-meadow, wherein as 

now were grazing many Idne and sheep. There were 

willows about the banl&s of the river, and in an ingk 

of it stood a grange or homestead, with many roofs half 

hidden by clumps of tall old elm trees. Other houses 

there were in the vale ; two or three cots, to wit, on 

the slope of the hither down, and some half-dozen 

about me homestead ; and above and beyond all these, 

on a mound somewhat away from the river and the 

grange, a great sauare tower, with barriers and bailey 

all dight ready ror war, and with a banner of the 

Lord's hanging out. But between the tower and the 

river stood as now a great pavilion of snow-white 

cloth striped with gold and purple ; and round about 

it were other tents, as though a little army were come 

into the vale. 

So when they looked into that fair place. Otter the 
Giptain rose in the stirrups and cast up his hand for 
joy, and cried out aloud: ^^Now, young knight, 
now we are come home : how likest thou my Lord's 
land ? " 

" It is a fair land," said Ralph ; " but is there not 
come some one to bid thy Lord battle for it ? or what 
mean the tents down yonder ? " 

Said Otter, laughing : ** Nay, nay, it hath not come 
to that yet. Yonder is my Lord's lady-wife, who 
hath come to meet him, but in love, so to say, not in 
battle — not yet. Though I say not that the cup of 
love betwixt them be brim-full. But this it behoveth 
me not to speak of, though thou art to be my brother- 
in-arms, since we are to tilt together presently : for 
lo ! yonder the tilt-yard, my lad." 

Therewith he pointed to the broad green meadow : 
but Ralph said : " How canst thou, a free man, be 

344 



brother-in-arms to a thrall?*' "Nay, lad/* quoth 
Otter, ^' let not that wasp sting thee : for even such 
was I, time was. Nay, such am I now, but that a 
certain habit of keeping my wits in a fray maketh me 
of avail to my Lord, so that I am well looked to. 
Forsooth in my Lord's land the free men are of little 
account, since they must oftenest do as my Lord and 
my Lord's thralk bid them. Truly, brother, it is 
we who have the wits and the luck to rise above the 
whipping-post and the shackles that are the great men 
hereabouts. I say we, for I deem that thou wilt do 
no less, whereas thou hast the lucky look in thine 
eyes. So let to-day try it." 

As he spake came many glittering figures from out 
of those tents, and therewithal arose the sound of horns 
and clashing of cymbals, and their own horns gave 
back the sound of welcome. Then Ralph saw a man 
in golden armour of strange, outlandish fashion, sitting 
on a great black horse beside the Lord's litter ; and 
Otter said : ^' Lo ! my Lord, armed and a-horseback 
to meet my lady : she looketh kinder on him thus ; 
though in thine ear be it said, he is no great man of 
war ; nor need he be, since he hath us for his shield 
and his hauberk." 

Herewith were they come on to the causeway above 
the green meadows, and presently drew rein before 
the pavilion, and stood about in a half-ring facing 
a two score of gaily clad men-at-arms, who had come 
with the Lady and a rout of folk of the household. 
Then the Lord gat off his horse, and stood in his 
golden armour, and all the horns and other music 
struck up, and forth from the pavilion came the Lady 
with a half-score of her women clad gaily in silken 
gowns of green, and blue, and yellow, broidered all 
about with gold and silver, but with naked feet, and 
having iron rings on their arms, so that Ralph saw 
that they were thralls. Something told him that his 

345 



damsel should be amongst these^ so he gazed hard on 
them, but though they were goodly enough there was 
none of them like to her. 

As to the Queen, she was clad all in fine linen and 
gold, with gold shoes on her feet : her arms came bare 
from out of the linen : great they were, and the hands 
not small ; but the arms round and fair, and the hands 
shapely, and all very white and rosy : her hair was as 
yellow as any that can be seen, and it was plenteous, 
and shed all down about her. Her eyes were blue 
and set wide apart, her nose a little snubbed, her 
mouth wide, full-lipped and smiling. She was very 
tall, a full half-head taller than any of her women : 
y«^ as tall as a man who is above the middle height 
of men. 

Now she came forward hastily with long strides, 
and knelt adown before the Lord, but even as she 
kneeled looked round with a laughing face. The 
Lord stooped down to her and took her by both hands, 
and raised her up, and kissed her on the cheek (and 
he looked but little and of no presence beside her:) 
and he said : " Hail to thee, my Lady ; thou art 
come far from thine home to meet me, and I thank 
thee therefor. Is it well with our House ? " 

She spake seeming carelessly and loud; but her 
voice was somewhat husky: **Yea, my Lord, all is 
well ; few have done amiss, and the harvest is plen- 
teous." As she spake the Lord looked with knit brows 
at the damsels behind her, as if he were seeking some- 
thing ; and the Lady followed his eyes, smiling a little 
and flushing as if with merriment. 

But the Lord was silent a while, and then let his 
brow clear and said : ** Yea, Lady, thou art thanked 
for coming to meet us ; and timely is thy coming, since 
there is game and glee for thee at hand ; I have cheap- 
ened a likely thrall of Morfinn the Unmanned, and 
he is a gift to thee ; and he hath given out that he is 

346 



no ill player with the spear after the fashion of them 
of the west ; and we are going to prove his word here 
in this meadow presently. ' 

The Lady's face grew glad, and she said, looking 
toward the ring of new comers : " Yea, Ijord, and 
which of these is he, if he be here ? " 

The Lord turned a little to point out Ralph, but 
even therewith the Lady's eyes met Ralph's, who red- 
dened for shame of being so shown to a great lady ; 
but as for her she flushed bright red all over her face 
and even to her bosom, and trouble came into her eyes, 
and she looked adown. But the Lord said: " Yonder 
is the youngling, the swordless one in the green coat ; 
a likely lad, if he hath not lied about his prowess; and 
he can sing thee a song withal, and tell a piteous tale 
of old, and do all that those who be reared in the 
lineages of the westlands deem meet and due for men 
of knightly blood. Dost thou like the looks of him, 
lady ? wilt thou have him ? " 

The Lady still held her head down, and tormented 
the grass with her foot, and murmured somewhat ; for 
she could not come to herself again as yet. So the 
Lord looked sharply on her and said : ** Well, when 
this tilting is over, thou shalt tell me thy mind of him ; 
for if he turn out a dastard I would not ask thee to 
take him." 

Now the lady lifted up her face, and she was grown 
somewhat pale ; but she forced her speech to come, 
and said : " It is well, Lord, but now come thou into 
my pavilion, for thy meat is ready, and it lacketh but 
a minute or so of noon." So he took her hand and 
led her in to the pavilion, and all men got oflF their 
horses, and fell to pitching the tents and getting their 
meat ready ; but Otter drew Ralph apart into a nook 
of the homestead, and there they ate their meat 
together. 

347 



CHAPTER XXXVI. THE TALK OF TWO 
WOMEN CONCERNING RALPH. 

BUT when dinner was done, came David and a 
man with him bringing Ralph's war gear, and 
bade him do it on, while the folk were fencing 
the lists, which they were doing with such stuff as 
they had at the Tower ; and the Lord had been call- 
ing for Otter that he might command him what he 
should tell to the marshals of the lists and how all 
should be duly ordered, wherefore he went up unto 
the Tower whither the Lord had now gone. So Ralph 
did on his armour, which was not right meet for tilt- 
ing, being over light for such work ; and his shield in 
especial was but a target for a sergent^ which he 
had bought at Cheaping Knowe ; but he deemed 
that his deftness and much use should bear him well 
through. 

Now, the Lady had abided in her pavilion when 
her Lord went abroad; anon after she sent all her 
women away, save one whom she loved, and to whom 
she was wont to tell the innermost of her mind ; though 
forsooth she mishandled her at whiles ; for she was hot 
of temper, and over-ready with her hands when she 
was angry ; though she was nowise cruel. But the 
woman aforesaid, who was sly and sleek, and some- 
what past her first youth, took both her caresses and 
her buffets with patience, for the sake of the gifts and 
largesse wherewith they were bought So now she 
stood by the board in the pavilion with her head droop- 
ing humbly, yet smiling to herself and heedful of 
whatso might betide. But the Lady walked up and 
down the pavilion hastily, as one much moved. 

At last she spake as she walked and said : '^ Agatha, 
didst thou see him when my Lord pointed him out ? " 
*^ Yea," said the woman lifting her face a little. 

" And what seemed he to thee ? " said the Lady. 

348 



** O my Lady," quoth Agatha, ** what seemed he to 
thee?" The lady stood and turned and looked at 
her ; she was slender and dark and sleek ; and though 
her lips moved not, and her eyes did not change, a 
smile seemed to steal over her face whether she would 
or not. The Lady stamped her foot and lifted her 
hand and cried out : '' What ! dost thou deem thyself 
meet for him ? " And she caught her by the folds 
over her bosom. But Agatha looked up into her 
face with a simple smile as of a child : ^ Dost thou 
deem h'mi meet for thee, my Lady — he a thrall, and 
thou so great ? " The Lady took her hand from her, 
but her face flamed with anger and she stamped on 
the ground again : " What dost thou mean ? " she 
said ; ^^ am I not great enough to have what I want 
when it lieth close to my hand ? " Agatha looked on 
her sweetly, and said in a soft voice : " Stretch out 
thine hand for it then." The Lady looked at her 
grimly, and said : '^ I imderstand thy jeer ; thou meanest 
that he will not be moved by me, he being so fair, and 
I being but somewhat fair. Wilt thou have me beat 
thee ? Nay, I will send thee to the White Pillar when 
we come home to Utterbol." 

The woman smiled again, and said : ^^ My Lady, 
when thou hast sent me to the White Pillar, or the Red, 
or the Black, my stripes will not mend the matter for 
thee, or quench the fear of thine heart that by this 
time, since he is a grown man, he loveth some other. 
Yet belike he will obey thee if thou command, even 
to the lying in the same bed with thee ; for he is a 
thrall." The Lady hung her head, but Agatha went 
on in her sweet clear voice : " The Lord will think 
little of it, and say nothing of it imless thou anger 
him otherwise ; or unless, indeed, he be minded to 
pick a quarrel with thee, and hath baited a trap with 
this stripling. But that is aU unlike : thou knowest 
why, and how that he loveth the little finger of that 

349 



new-come thrall of his (whom ye left at home at 
Utterbol in his despite), better than all thy body, 
for all thy white skin and lovely limbs. Nay, now I 
think of it, I deem that he meaneth this gift to make 
an occasion for the staying of any quarrel with thee, 
that he may stop thy mourn from crying out at him— 
well, what wilt thou do ? he is a mighty Lord/* 

The Lady looked up (for she had hung her head at 
first,) her face all red wim shame, yet smiling, though 
ruefully, and she said : " Well, thou art determined 
that if thou art punished it shall not be for naught 
But thou knowest not my mind." ** Yea, Lady," sud 
Agatha, smiling in despite herself, " that may well be." 

Now the Laidy turned from her, and went and sat 
upon a stool that was thereby, and sdd nothing a 
while ; only covering her face with her hands and 
rocking herself to and fro, while Agatha stood look- 
ing at her. At last she said : ^' Hearken, Agatha, I 
must tell thee what lieth in mine heart, though thou 
hast been unkind to me and hast tried to hurt my soul. 
Now, thou art self-willed, and hot-blooded, and not 
unlovely, so that thou mayst have loved and been 
loved ere now. But thou art so wily and subtle that 
mayhappen thou wilt not understand what I mean, 
when I say that love of this young man hath suddenly 
entered into my heart, so that I long for him more 
this minute than I did the last, and the next minute 
shall long still more. And I long for him to love me, 
and not alone to pleasure me." 

" Mayhappen it will so betide without any pushing 
the matter," said Agatha. 

" Nay," said the Lady, " nay ; my heart tells me 
that it will not be so; for I have seen him, that he is 
of higher kind than we be ; as if he were a god come 
down to us, who if he might not cast his love upon a 
goddess, would disdain to love an earthly woman, 
little-minded and in whom perfection is not." 

350 



Therewith the tears began to run from her eyes ; 
but Agatha looked on her with a subtle smile and 
said : '' O my Lady I and thou hast scarce seen him ! 
And yet I will not say but that I understand this. But 
as to the matter of a goddess, I know not. Many 
would say that thou sitting on thine ivory chair 
in thy golden raiment, with thy fair bosom and white 
arms and yellow hair, wert not ill done for the image 
of a goddess; and this young man may well think so 
of thee. However that may be, there is something else 
I will say to thee ; (and thou knowest that I speak the 
truth to thee — most often — though I be wily). This 
is the word, that although thou hast time and again 
treated me like the thrall I am» I deem thee no ill 
woman, but rather something overgood for Utterbol 
and the dark lord thereof." 

Now sat the Lady shaken with sobs, and weeping 
without stint; but she looked up at that word and 
said : *' Nay, nay, Agatha, it is not so. To-day hath 
this man's eyes been a jcandle to me, that I may see 
myself truly ; and I know that though I am a queen 
and not uncomely, I am but coarse and little-minded. 
I rage in my household when the whim takes me, and 
I am hot-headed, and masterful, and slothful, and 
should belike be untrue if there were any force to drive 
me thereto. And I suffer my husband to go after 
other women, and this new thrall in especial, so that 
I may take my pleasure unstayed with other men 
whom I love not greatly. Yea, I am foolish, and 
empty-hearted, and unclean. And all this he will see 
through my queenly state, and my golden gown, and 
my white skin withal." 

Agatha looked on her curiously, but smiling no more. 
At last she said : " What is to do, then ? or must I 
think of something for thee i " 

** I know not, I know not," said the Lady between 
her sobs ; ^^ yet if I might be in such case that he might 

3S^ 



pity me ; belike it imght blind his eyes to the ill part 
of me. Yea/' she said, rising up and falling walking 
to and fro swiftly, ^^ if he might hurt me and wound 
me himself, and I so loving him." 

Said Agatha coldly : '' Yea, Lady, I am not wily 
for naught ; and I both deem that I know what is in 
thine heart, and that it is good for something ; and 
moreover that I may help thee somewhat therein. So 
in a few days thou shalt see whether I am worth some- 
thing more than hard words and beating. Only thou 
must promise in all wise to obey me, though I be the 
thrall, and thou the Lady, and to leave all the whole 
matter in my hands." 

Quoth the Lady : ** That is easy to promise ; for 
what may I do by myself?" 

Then Agatha fell pondering a while, and said there- 
after : *' First, thou shalt get me speech with my Ijord, 
and cause him to swear inununity to me, whatsoever 
I shall say or do herein." Said the Lady : ^* Easy is 
this. What more hast thou ?" 

Said Agatha : ** It were better for thee not to go 
forth to see the justing ; because thou art not to be 
trusted that thou show not thy love openly when the 
youngling is in peril; and if thou put thy lord to 
shame openly before the people, he must needs thwart 
thy will, and be fierce and cruel, and then it will go 
hard with thy darling. So thou shalt not go from the 
pavilion till the night is dark, and thou mayst feign 
thyself sick meantime." 

*^ Sick enough shall I be if I may not go forth to see 
how my love is faring in his peril : this at least is hard 
to me ; but so be it ! At least thou wilt come and tell 
me how he speedeth." " O yes," said Agatha, " if thou 
must have it so ; but fear thou not, he shall do well 
enough." 

Said the Lady : ^* Ah, but thou wottest how oft it 
goes with a chance stroke, that the point pierceth 

35^ 



where it should not; nay, where by likelihead it could 
not." 

" Nay/' said Agatha, '* what chance is there in this, 
when the youngling knoweth the whole manner of the 
play, and his foemen know naught thereof? It is as 
the chance betwixt GeofiFroy the Minstrel and Black 
Anselm, when they play at chess together, that Anselm 
must needs be mated ere he hath time to think of his 
fourth move. I wot of these matters, my Lady. Now, 
further, I would have thy leave to marshal thy maids 
about the seat where thou shouldest be, and moreover 
there should be someone in thy seat, even if I sat in it 
myself." Said the Lady : " Yea, sit there if thou 
wUt." 

*' Woe's me ! " said Agatha laughing, " why should 
I sit there ? I am like to thee, am I not ?" " Yea," 
said the Lady, '^ as the swan is like to the loon." *' Yea, 
my Lady," said Agatha, '^ which is the swan and 
which the loon? Well, well, fear not; I shall set 
Joyce in thy seat by my Lord's leave ; she is tall and 
fair, and forsooth somewhat like to thee," "Why 
wilt thou do this ? " quoth the Lady ; ** Why should 
thralls sit in my seat ? " Said Agatha : ^* O, the tale 
is long to tell ; but I would confuse that young man's 
memory of thee somewhat, if his eyes fell on thee at 
all when ye met e'en now, which is to be doubted." 

The Lady started up in sudden wrath, and cried 
out : ^' She had best not be too like to me then, and 
strive to draw his eyes to her, or I will have her 
marked for diversity betwixt us. Take heed, take 
heed!" 

Agatha looked sbftly on her and said : " My Lady. 
ye fair-skinned, open-faced women should look to it 
not to show yourselves angry before men-folk. For 
open wrath marreth your beauty sorely. Leave scowls 
and fury to the dark-browed, who can use them with- 
out wrying their faces like a three months' baby with 

353 A A 



the colic. Now that is my last rede as now. For m^ 
thinks I can hear the trumpets blowing for the array- 
ing of the tourney. Wherefore I must go to see to 
matters, while thou hast but to be quiet. And to- 
night make much of my Lord, and bid lum see me to- 
morrow, and give heed to what I shall say to him. 
But if I meet him without, now^ as is most like, I shall 
bid him in to thee, that thou mayst tell him of Joyce, 
and her sitting in thy seat. Otherwise I will tell him 
as soon as he is set down in his place. Sooth to say, he 
is little like to quarrel with either thee or me for 
setting a fair woman other than thee by his side." 

Therewith she lifted the tent lap, and went out, 
stepping daintily, and her slender body swaying like a 
willow branch, and came at once face to face with the 
Lord of Utterbol, and bowed low and humbly before 
him, though her face, unseen of him, smiled mockingly. 
The Lord looked on her greedily, and let his hand 
and arm go over her shoulder, and about her side, 
and he drew her to him, and kissed her, and said : 
** What, Agatha ! and why art thou not bringing forth 
thy mistress to us ? " She raised her face to him, and 
murmured softly, as one afraid, but with a wheedling 
smile on her face and in her eyes : " Nay, my Lord, 
she will abide within to-day, for she is ill at ease; 
if your grace goeth in, she will tell thee what she will 
have." 

" Agatha," quoth he, " I will hear her, and I will do 
her pleasure if thou ask me so to do." Then Agatha 
cast down her eyes, and her speech was so low and 
sweet that it was as the cooing of a dove, as she said : 
" O my Lord, what is this word of thine ? " 

He kissed her again, and said : " Well, well, but 
dost thou ask it ? " " O yea, yea, my Lord," ssud she. 

*^ It is done then," said the Lord; and he let her 
go ; for he had been stroking her arm and shoulder, 
and she hurried away, laughing inwardly, to the Lady's 

354 



women. But he went into the pavilion after he had 
cast one look at her. 



CHAPTER XXXVII. HOW RALPH JUSTED 
WITH THE AUENS. 

MEANWHILE Captain Otter had brought 
Ralph into the staked-out lists, which, being 
hastily pitched, were but slenderly done, and 
now the Upmeads stripling stood there beside a good 
horse which they had brought to him, and Otter had 
been speaking to him friendly. But Ralph saw the 
Lord come forth from the pavilion and take his seat 
on an ivory chair set on a turf ridge close to the stakes 
of the lists : for that place was us^ of custom for such 
games as they exercised in the lands of Utterbol. 
Then presently the Lady's women came out of their 
tents, and, being marshalled by Agatha, went into the 
Queen's pavilion, whence they came forth again pre- 
sently like a bed of garden flowers moving, having in 
the midst of them a woman so fair, and clad so glo- 
riously, that Ralph must needs look on her, though he 
were some way off, and take note of her beauty. She 
went and sat her down beside the Lord, and Ralph 
doubted not that it was the Queen, whom he had but 
glanced at when they first made stay before the pavilion. 
Sooth to say, Joyce being well nigh as tall as the Queen, 
and as white of skin, was otherwise a far fairer woman. 

Now spake Otter to Ralph : " I must leave thee 
here, lad, and go to the other side, as I am to run 
against thee." Said Ralph : " Art thou to run first ? " 
** Nay, but rather last," said Otter ; ** they will try 
thee first with one of the sergeants, and if he overcome 
thee, then all is done, and thou art in an evil plight. 
Otherwise will they find another and another, and at 
last it will be my turn. So keep thee well, lad." 

Therewith he rode away, and there came to Ralph 

355 



one of the sergeants^ who brought him a spear, and 
bade him to horse. So Ralph mounted and took the 
spear in hand ; and the sergeant ssdd : ^^ Thou art to 
run at whatsoever meeteth thee when thou hast heard 
the third blast of the horn. Art thou ready ? " Yet, 
yea," said Ralph ; " but I see that the spear-head is 
not rebated, so that we are to play at sharps/' 

"Art thou. afraid, youngling?" said the sergeant, 
who was old and crabbed, " if that be so^ go and teD 
the Lord : but thou wilt find that he will not have his 
sport wholly spoiled, but will somehow make a bolt 
or a shaft out of thee/' 

Said Ralph : " I did but jest ; I deem myself not 
so near my death to-day as I have been twice diis 
sunmier or oftener/' Said the sergeant, ** It is ill jest- 
ing in matters wherein my Ijord hath to do. Now 
thou hast heard my word : do after it/* 

Therewith he departed, and Ralph laughed and 
shook the spear aloft, and deemed it not over stroi^ ; 
but he said to himself that the spears of the othos 
would be much the same. 

Now the horn blew up thrice, and at the latest blast 
Ralph pricked forth, as one well used to the tilt, but 
held his horse well in hand ; and he saw a man come 
driving against him with his spear in the rest, and 
deemed him right big ; but this withal he saw, that 
the man was ill arrayed, and was pulling on his horse 
as one not willing to trust him to the rush; and 
indeed he came on so ill that it was clear that he would 
never strike Ralph's shield fairly. So he swerved as 
they met, so that his spear-point was never near to 
Ralph, who turned his horse toward him a little, and 
caught his foeman by the gear about his neck, and 
spurred on, so that he dragged him clean out of his 
saddle, and let him drop, and rode back quietly to his 
place, and got off his horse to see to his girths ; and 
he heard great laughter rising up from the ring of 

3S6 



men, and from the women also. But the Ijord of 
Uttcrbol cried out : " Bring forth some one who doth 
not eat my meat for nothing : and set that wretch and 
dastard aside till the tilting be over, and then he shall 
pay a little for his wasted meat and drink/' 

Ralph got into his saddle again, and saw a very big 
man come forth at the other end of the lists, and 
wondered if he should be overthrown of him; but 
noted that his horse seemed not over good. Then 
the horn blew up and he spurred on, and his foeman 
met him /airly in the midmost of the lists : yet he 
laid his spear but ill, and as one who would thrust 
and foin with it rather than letting it drive all it might, 
so that Ralph turned the point with his shield that it 
glanced off, but he himself smote the other full on the 
shoulder, and the shaft brake, but the point had 
pierced the man's armour, and the truncheon stuck in 
the wound : yet since the spear was broken he kept his 
saddle. The Lord cried out, " Well, Black Anseim, 
this is better done ; yet art thou a big man and a well- 
skilled to be beaten by a stripling." 

So the man was helped away and Ralph went back 
to his place again. 

Then another man was gotten to run against Ralph, 
and it went the same-like way : for Ralph smote him 
amidst of the shield, and the spear held, so that he fell 
floundering off his horse. 

Six of the stoutest men of Utterbol did Ralph over- 
throw or hurt in this wise ; and then he ran three 
courses with Otter^ and in the first two each brake 
his spear fairly on the other ; but in the third Otter 
smote not Ralph squarely, but Ralph smote full amidst 
of his shield, and so dight him that he well-nigh fell, 
and could not master his horse, but yet just barely 
kept his saddle. 

Then the Lord cried out : " Now make we an end 
of it 1 We have no might ag^nst this younglings man 

357 



to man : or else would Otter have done it. This 
comes of learning a craft diligently." 

So Ralph got oflF his horse, and did off his hdm 
and awaited tidings ; and anon comes to him the surly 
sergeant, and brought him a cup of wine, and said : 
^' Youngling, thou art to drink this, and then go to my 
Lord ; and I deem that thou art in favour with him. 
So if thou art not too great a man, thou mightest put 
in a word for poor Redhead, that fiurst man that did so 
ill. For my Lord would have him set up, head down 
and buttocks aloft, as a target for our bowmen. And 
it will be his luck if he be sped with the third shot, 
and last not out to the twentieth." 

" Yea, certe%" said Ralph, ** I will do no less, even 
if it anger the Lord." " O thou wilt not anger him," 
s^d the man, ^' for I tell thee, thou art in ^vour. Yea, 
and for me also thou mightest say a word also, when 
thou becomest right great; for have I not brought 
thee a good bowl of wine ? " " Doubt it not, man," 
said Ralph, '^ if I once get safe to Utterbol : weary 
on it and all its ways ! " Said the sergeant : ^^ That 
is an evil wish for one who shall do well at Utterbol. 
But come, tarry not." 

So he brought Ralph to the Lord, who still sat in 
his chair beside that fair woman, and Ralph did obey- 
sance to him ; yet he had a sidelong glance also for 
that fair seeming-queen, and deemed her both proud- 
looking, and so white-skinned, that she was a wonder, 
like the queen of the fays : and it was just this that 
he had noted of the Queen as he stood before her 
earlier in the day when they first came into the vale ; 
therefore he had no doubt of this damsel's queenship. 
Nqw the Lord spake to him and said : ** Well, 
youngling, thou hast done well, and better than thy 
behest : and since ye have been playing at sharps, 1 
deem thou would'st not do ill in battle, if it came to 
that. So now I am like to make something other of 

358 



99 



thee than I was minded to at first : for I deem that 
thou art good enough to be a man. And if thou wilt 
now ask a boon of me, if it be not over great, I will 
grant it thee." 

Ralph put one knee to the ground^ and said : 
** Great Lord, I thank thee : but whereas I am in an 
alien land and seeking great things, I know of no gift 
which I may take for myself save leave to depart, 
which I deem thou wilt 'not grant me. Yet one thing 
thou mayst do for my asking if thou wilt. If thou 
be still angry with the carle whom I first unhorsed, I 
pray thee pardon him his ill-luck." 

'' Ill-liick ! " said the Lord, " Why, I saw him that 
he was downright afraid of thee. And if my men are 
to grow blenchers and soft-hearts what is to do then ? 
But tell me, Otter, what is the name of this carle ? 
Said Otter, ** Redhead he hight. Lord." Said the 
Lord : " Aiid what like a man is he in a fray ? " 
" Naught so ill. Lord," said Otter. " This time, like 
the rest of us, he knew not this gear. It were scarce 
good to miss him at the next pinch. It were enough 
if he had the thongs over his back a few dozen times ; 
it will not be the first day of such cheer to him." 

" Ha ! " s^d the Lord, *' and what for. Otter, what 
for ? " ^ Because he was somewhat rough-handed, 
Lord," said Otter. " Then shall we need him and 
use him some day. Let him go scot free and do 
better another bout. There is thy boon granted for 
thee, knight ; and another day thou mayst ask some- 
thing more. And now shall David have a care of 
thee. And when we come to Utterbol we shall see 
what is to be done with thee." 

Then Ralph rose up and thanked him, and David 
came forward, and led him to his tent. And he was 
wheedling in his ways to him, as if Ralph were now 
become one who might do him great good if so his 
will were. 

359 



But the Lord went back ag^n into the Tower. 

As to the Lady, she abode in her pavilion 
many fears and desires^ till Agatha entered and 
** My Lady, so far all has gone happily." Said the 
Lady : '^ I deemed from the noise and the cry that be 
was doing welL But tell me, how did he ? " ** My 
Lady^" quoth Agatha, '^ he knocked our folk about 
well-favouredly, and seemed to think little of it." 

''And Joyce," said the Ilady, "how did she?" 
'' She looked a queen, every inch of her, and she is 
taU," said Agatha : '' soothly scune folk stared on her, 
but not many knew of her, since she is but new uto 
our house. Though it is a matter of course that all 
save our new-come knight knew that it was not thou 
that sat there. And my Lord was well-pleased, and 
now he hath taken her by the hand and led her into 
the Tower." 

The Lady reddened and scowled, and said : ^ And 
he . . . did he come anigh her ? " '* O yea," said 
Agatha, '' whereas he stood before my Lord a good 
while, and then kneeled to him to pray pardon for 
one of our men who had done ill in the tilting : yea, he 
was nigh enough to her to touch her had he dared, and 
to smell the fragrance of her raiment. And he seemed 
to think it good to look out of the corners of his eyes 
at her ; though I do not say that she smiled on him." 
The Lady sprang up, her cheeks burning, and walked 
about angrily a while, striving for words, till at last 
she said : " When we come home to Utterbol, my 
lord will see his new thrall again, and will care for 
Joyce no whit : then will I have my will of her ; and 
she shall learn, she, whether I am verily the least of 
women at Utterbol. Ha ! what sayest thou ? Now 
why wilt thou stand and smile and smile on me ? — 
Yea, I know what is in thy thought ; and in very 
sooth it is good that the dear youngling hath not seen 
this new thrall, this Ursula. Forsooth, I tell thee 

360 



that if I durst have her in my hands I would have a 
true tale out of her as to why she weareth ever that 
pair of beads about her neck." 

" Now, our Lady," said Agatha, "thou art marring 
the fairness of thy face again. I bid thee be at peace, 
for all shall be well, and other than thou deemest. 
Tell me, then, didst thou get our Lord to swear im- 
munity for me ? " Said the Lady : *' Yea, he swore 
on the edge of the sword that thou mightest say what 
thou wouldst, and neither he nor any other should lay 
hand on thee." 

" Good," said Agatha ; " then will I go to him to- 
morrow morning, when Joyce has gone from him. 
But now hold up thine heart, and keep close for these 
two days that we shall yet abide in Tower Dale : and 
trust me this very evening I shall begin to set tidings 
going that shall work and grow, and shall one day 
rejoice thine heart." . 

So fell the talk betwixt them. 



CHAPTER XXXVIII. A FRIEND GIVES 
RALPH WARNING. 

CV N the morrow Ralph wandered about the Dale 
' 1 where he would, and none meddled with him. 
^ And as he walked east along the stream where 
the valley began to narrow, he saw a man sitting on 
the bank fishing with an angle, and when he drew 
neai:, the man turned about, and saw him. Then he 
lays down his angling rod and rises to his feet, and 
stands facing Ralph, looking sheepish, with his hands 
hanging down by his sides; and Ralph, who was 
thinking of other folk, wondered what he would. So 
he said : ** Hail, good fellow ! What wouldst thou ? " 
Said the man : " 1 would thank thee." " What for ? " 
said Ralph, but as he looked on him he saw that it 
was Redhead^ whose pardon he had won of the Lord 

361 



yesterday ; so he held out his hand^ and took Red- 
head's, and smiled friendly on him. Redhead looked 
him full in the face, and though he was both big and 
very rough-looking, he had not altogether the look of 
a rascal. 

He said : ^^ Fsur lord, I would that I might do 
something for thine avail, and perchance I may : but 
it is hard to do good deeds in Hell, especially for cMie 
of its devils." 

" Yea, is it so bad as that ? " said Ralph. " For 
thee not yet," said Redhead, ^' but it may come to it 
Hearken, lord, there is none anigh us that I can see, 
so I will say a word to thee at once. Later on it may 
be over late : Go thou not to Utterbol whatever may 
betide." 

'' Yea," said Ralph, ** but how if I be taken thither ? " 
Quoth Redhead : '^ I can see this, that thou art so 
favoured that thou mayst go whither thou wilt about 
the camp with none to hinder thee. Therefore it will 
be easy for thee to depart by night and cloud, or in 
the grey of the morning, when thou comest to a good 
pass, whereof I will tell thee. And still I say, go 
thou not to Utterbol : for thou art over good to be 
made a devil of, like to us, and therefore thou shalt 
be tormented till thy life is spoilt, and by that road 
shalt thou be sent to heaven." 

** But thou saidst even now," said Ralph, ** that I 
was high in the Lord's grace." " Yea," said Redhead, 
<^that may last till thou hast command to do some 
dastard's deed and naysayest it, as thou wilt : and 
then farewell to thee ; for I know what my Lord 
meaneth for thee." "Yea," said Ralph, "and what 
is that ? " Said Redhead ; " He hath bought thee to 
give to his wife for a toy and a minion, and if she 
like thee, it will be well for a while : but on the first 
occasion that serveth him, and she wearieth of thee 
(for she is a woman like a weathercock), he will lay 

362 



hand on thee and take the manhood from thee, and 
let thee drift about Utterbol a mock for all men. For 
already at heart he hateth thee." 

Ralph stood pondering this word, for somehow it 
chimed in with the thought already in his heart. Yet 
how should he not go to Utterbol with the Damsel 
abiding deliverance of him there : and yet again, if 
they met there and were espied on, would not that 
ruin everything for her as well as for him ? 

At last he said : '' Good fellow, this may be true, 
but how shall I know it for true before I run the risk 
of fleeing away, instead of going on to Utterbol, 
whereas folk deem honour awaiteth me." 

Said Redhead : ^* There is no honour at Utterbol 
save for such as are unworthy of honour. But thy 
risk is as I say, and I shall tell thee whence I had my 
tale, since I love thee for thy kindness to me, and thy 
manliness. It was told me yester-eve by a woman 
who is in the very privity of the Lady of Utterbol, 
and is well with the Lord also : and it jumpeth with 
mine own thought on the matter ; so I bid thee beware : 
for what is in me to grieve would be sore grieved wcrt 
thou cast away." 

" Well," said Ralph, " let us sit down here on the 
bank and then tell me more ; but go on with thine 
angling the while, lest any should see us." 

So they sat down, and Redhead did as Ralph bade ; 
and he said : ^^ Lord, I have bidden thee to flee ; but 
this is an ill land to flee from, and indeed there is but 
one pass whereby ye may well get away from this 
company betwixt this and Utterbol; and we shall 
encamp hard by it on the second day of our faring 
hence. Yet I must tell thee that it is no road for a 
dastard ; for it leadeth through the forest up into the 
mountains : yet such as it is, for a man bold and strong 
like thee, I bid thee take it : and I can see to it that 
leaving this company shall be easy to thee : only thou 

3^3 



must make up thy mind speedily, since the time draws 
so nigh, and when thou art come to Utterbol with 
all this rout, and the house full, and some one or other 
dogging each footstep of thine, fleeing will be another 
matter. Now thus it is : on that same second night, 
not only is the wood at hand to cover thee, but I shall 
be chief warder of the side of the camp where thou 
lodgest, so that I can put thee on the road : and if I 
were better worth, I would say, take me with thee, but 
as it is, I will not burden thee with that prayer." 

" Yea,** said Ralph, '* I have had one guide in this 
countryside and he bewrayed me. This is a matter 
of life and death, so I will speak out and say how am 
I to know but that thou also art going about to bewray 
me ?** 

Readhead leapt up to his feet, and roared oat: 
** What shall I say ? what shall I say ? By the soul 
of my father I am not bewraying thee. May all the 
curses of Utterbol be sevenfold heavier on me if I 
am thy traitor and dastard." 

** Softly lad, softly,*' s^d Ralph, " lest some one 
should hear thee. Content thee, I must needs believe 
thee if thou makest so much noise about it." 

Then Redhead sat him down again, and for all that 
he was so rough and sturdy a carle he fell a-weeping. 

" Nay, nay," said Ralph, " this is worse in all wise 
than the other noise. I believe thee as well as a man 
can who is dealing with one who is not his close friend, 
and who therefore spareth truth to his friend because of 
many years use and wont. Come to thyself agsun 
and let us look at this matter square in the &ce, and 
speedily too, lest some unfriend or busybody come 
on us. There now ! Now, in the first place dost 
thou know why I am come into this perilous and 
tyrannous land? " 

Said Readhead : *' I have heard it said that thou art 
on the quest of the Well at the World's End." 

364 



•* And that is but the sooth," said Ralph. " Well 
then," quoth Redhead, '' there is the greater cause for 
thy fleeing at the time and in the manner I have bidden 
thee. For there is a certain sage who dwelleth in the 
wildwood betMrixt that place and the Great Mountains, 
and he hath so much lore concerning the Mountains, 
yea, and the Well itself, that if he will tell thee what 
he can telK thou art in a hir way to end thy quest 
happily. What sayest thou then ? " 

&ud Ralph, ^' I say that the Sage is good if I may 
find him. But there is another cause why I have 
come hither from Goldburg. *' What is that ? " said 
Redhead. " This," said Ralph, " to come to Utter- 
bol." " Heaven help us ! " quoth Redhead, " and 
wherefore ? " 

Ralph said : ^* Belike it is neither prudent nor wise 
to tell thee, but I do verily trust thee ; so hearken ! 
I go to Utterbol to deliver a friend from Utterbol ;• 
and this friend is a woman — hold a minute — and this 
woman, as I believe, hath been of late brought to 
Utterbol, having been taken out of the hands of one of 
the men of the mountains that lie beyond Cheaping 
Knowe." 

Redhead stared astonished, and kept silence awhile ; 
then he said : " Now all the more I say, flee ! flee ! 
flee ! Doubtless the woman is there, whom thou 
seekest ; for it would take none less fair and noble 
than that new-come thrall to draw to her one so fair 
and noble as thou art. But what availeth it? If thou 
go to Utterbol thou wilt destroy both her and thee. 
For know, that we can all see that the Lord hath set 
his love on this damsel ; and what better can betide, 
if thou come to Utterbol, but that the Lord shall at 
once see that there is love betwixt you two, and then 
there will be an end of the story." 

" How so ? " quoth Ralph. Said Redhead : '' At 
Utterbol all do the will of the Lord of Utterbol, and 

365 



he is so lustful and cruel^ and so false withal, that his 
will shall be to torment the damsel to deaths and to 
geld and m^m thee ; so that none hereafter shall know 
how goodly and gallant thou hast been." 

" Redhead," quoth Ralph much moved, " though 
thou art in no knightly service, thou mayst understand 
that it is good for a friend to die with a friend/' 

" Yea, forsooth," said Redhead, " If he may do no 
more to help than that ! Wouldst thou not help the 
damsel ? Now when thou comest back from the quest 
of the Well at the World's End, thou wilt be too 
mighty and glorious for the Lord of Utterbol to thrust 
thee aside like to an over eager dog ; and thou mayst 
help her then. But now I say to thee, and swear to 
thee, that three days after thou hast met thy beloved 
in Utterbol she will be dead. I would that thou couldst 
ask someone else nearer to the Lord than I have been. 
The tale would be the same as mine." 

Now soothly to say it, this was even what Ralph had 
feared would be, and he could scarce doubt Redhead's 
word. So he sat there pondering the matter a good 
while, and at last he said : " My friend, I will trust 
thee with another thing ; I have a mind to flee to the 
wildwood, and yet come to Utterbol for the damsel's 
deliverance." "Yea," said Redhead, "and how wilt 
thou work in the matter ? " Said Ralph ; " How 
would it be if I came thither in other guise than mine 
own, so that I should not be known either by the 
damsel or her tyrants ? " 

Said Redhead : " There were peril in that ; yet hope 
also. Yea, and in one way thou mightest do it ; to 
wit, if thou wert to find that Sage, and tell him thy 
tale : if he be of good will to thee, he might then change 
not thy gear only, but thy skin also ; for he hath ex- 
ceeding great lore." 

" Well," said Ralph, " Thou mayst look upon it 
as certain that on that aforesaid night, I will do my 

366 






best to shake off this company of tyrant and thralls, 
unless I hear fresh tidings, so that I must needs change 
my purpose. But I wUl ask thee to give me some 
token that all holds together some little time before- 
hand." Quoth Redhead : " Even so shall it be ; thou 
shalt see me at latest on the eve of the night of thy 
departure ; but on the night before that if it be any- 
wise possible." 

" Now will I go away from thee," said Ralph, " and 
I thank thee heartily for thine help, and deem thee 
my friend. And if thou think better of fleeing with 
me, thou wilt gladden me the more." Redhead shook 
his head but spake not, and Ralph went his ways down 
the dale. 



CHAPTER XXXIX. THE LORD OF UTTER- 
BOL MAKES RALPH A FREE MAN. 

HE went to and fro that day and the next, and 
none meddled with him; with Redhead he 
spake not again those days, but had talk 
with Otter and David, who were blithe enough with 
him. Agatha he saw not at all ; nor the Lady, and 
still deemed that the white-skinned woman whom he had 
seen sitting by the Lord after the tilting was the Queen. 

As for the Lady she abode in her pavilion, and 
whiles lay in a heap on the floor weeping, or dull and 
blind with grief ; whiles she walked up and down mad 
wroth with whomsoever came in her way, even to the 
dealing out of stripes and blows to her women. 

But on the eve before the day of departure Agatha 
came into her, and chid her^ and bade her be merry : 
^^ I have seen the Lord and told him what I would, and 
found it no hard matter to get him to yeasay our 
plot, which were hard to carry out without his good- 
will. Withal the seed that I have sowed two days 
or more ago is beanng fruit ; so that thou mayst look 

367 



to it that whatsoever plight we may be in^ we shall 
find a deliverer." 

** I wot not thy meaning," quoth the Lady> " but I 
deem thou wilt now tell me what thou art pknning, 
and give me some hope^ lest I lay hands on myself.** 

Then Agatha told her without tarrying what she 
was about doing for her, the tale of which will be 
seen hereafter; and when she had done, the Lady 
mended her cheer, and bade bring meat and drink, and 
was once more like a great and proud Lady. 

On the morn of departure, when Ralph arose, David 
came to him and said : ^* My Lord is astir already, and 
would see thee for thy good." So Ralph went with 
David, who brought him to the Tower, and there they 
found the Lord sitting in a window, and Otter stood 
before him, and some others of his highest folk. But 
beside him sat Joyce, and it seemed that he thought it 
naught but good to hold her hand and play wim the 
fingers thereof, though all those great men were by; and 
Ralph had no thought of her but that she was theQueen* 

So Ralph made obeisance to the Lord and stood 
awaiting his word ; and the Lord said : " We have 
been thinking of thee, young man, and have deemed 
thy lot to be somewhat of the hardest, if thou must 
needs be a thrall, since thou art both young and well- 
born, and so good a man of thine hands. Now^ wilt 
thou be our man at Utterbol ? " 

Ralph delayed his answer a space and looked at Otter, 
who seemed to him to frame a Yea with his lips, as 
who should say, take it. So he said : " Lord, thou 
art good to me, yet mayst thou be better if thou wilt." 

^* Yea, man ! " said the Lord knitting his brows ; 
" What shall it be ? say thy say, and be done with it." 

" Lord," said Ralph, " I pray thee to give me my 
choice, whether I shall go with thee to Utterbol or 
forbear going ? " 

" Why, 1q you ! " said the Lord testily, and some- 

368 



what sourly; *'thou hast the choice. Have I not 
told thee that thou art free ? '* Then Ralph knelt 
before him, and said : '^ Lord, I thank thee from a 
full heart, in that thou wilt sufFer me to d!^art on 
mine errand, for it is a great one. '* The scowl deepened 
on the Lord's face, and he turned away from Ralph, 
and said presently : *' Otter, take the Knight away, 
and let him have all his armour and weapons, and a 
right good horse ; and then let him do as he will, 
either ride with us, or depart if he will, and whither 
he will. And if he must needs ride into the desert, 
and cast himself away in the mountains, so be it But 
whatever he hath a mind to, let none hinder him, but 
further him rather ; hearest thou ? take him with 
thee." 

Then was Ralph overflowing with thanks, but the 
Lord heeded him naught, but looked askance at him 
and sourly. And he rose up withal, and led the damsel 
by the hand into another chamber ; and she minced in 
her gait and leaned over to the Lord and spake softly 
in his ear and laughed, and he laughed in his turn and 
toyed with her neck and shoulders. 

But the great men turned and went their ways from 
the Tower, and Ralph went with Otter and was full 
of glee, and as merry as a bird. But Otter looked 
on nim, and said gruffly : '* Yea now, thou art like a 
song-bird but newly let out of his cage. But I can 
see the string which is tied to thy leg, though thou 
feelest it not. 

** Why, what now ? " quoth Ralph, making as though 
he were astonished. " Hearken,'* said Otter : " there 
is none nigh us, so I will speak straight out ; for I 
love thee since the justing when we tried our might 
together. If thou deemest that thou art verily free, 
ride ofi^ on the backward road when we go forward ; 
I warrant me thou shalt presently meet with an ad* 
venture, and be brought in a captive for the second 

369 BB 



time." " How then," said Ralph, " hath not the 
Lord good will toward me ? " 

Said Otter : *' I say not that he is now minded to do 
thee a mischief for cruelty's sake ; but he is mindea 
to get what he can out of thee. If he use thee not 
for the pleasuring of his wife (so long as her pleasure 
in thee lasteth) he will verily use thee for somewhat 
else. And to speak plainly, I now deem that he will 
make thee my mate, to use with me, or ^sunst me as 
occasion may serve ; so thou shalt be another captun 
of his host.'' He laughed withal, and said again: 
*' But if thou be not wary, thou wilt tumble off diat 
giddy height, and find thyself a thrall once more, and 
maybe a gelding to boot." Now waxed Ralph angry 
and forgat his prudence, and said : *^ Yea, but how 
shall he use me when I am out of reach of his hand ? " 
'* Oho, young man," s^d Otter, " whither away then, 
to be out of his reach ? " 

" Why," quoth Ralph still angrily, " is thy Lcmi 
master of all the world.? " ** Nay," said the captain, 
** but of a piece thereof. In short, betwixt Utterbol 
and Goldburg, and Utterbol and the mountains, and 
Utterbol and an hundred miles north, and an hundred 
miles south, there is no place where thou canst live, 
no place save the howling wilderness, and scarcely there 
either, where he may not lay hand on thee if he do but 
whistle. What, man ! be not downhearted ! come 
with us to Utterbol, since thou needs must Be wise, 
and then the Lord shall have no occasion against thee ; 
above all, beware of crossing him in any matter of a 
woman. Then who knows" (and here he sunk his voice 
well nigh to a whisper) " but thou and I together may 
rule in Utterbol and make better days there." 

Ralph was waxen master of himself by now, and 
was gotten wary indeed, so he made as if he liked 
Otter's counsel well, and became exceeding gay ; for 
indeed the heart within him was verily glad at the 

370 



thought of his escaping from thralldom ; for more than 
ever now he was fast in his mind to flee at the time 
appointed by Redhead. 

So Otter said : " Well, youngling, I am glad that 
thou takest it thus, for I deem that if thou wert to 
seek to depart, the Lord would make it an occasion 
against thee/' 

^ Such an occasion shall he not have, fellow in arms," 
quoth Ralph. " But tell me, we ride presently, and I 
suppose are bound for Utterness by the shortest road ? " 
** Yea,** said Otter, " and anon we shall come to the 
great forest which lieth along our road all the way to 
Utterness and beyond it ; for the town is, as it were, 
an island in the sea of woodland which covers all, right 
up to the feet of the Great Mountains, and does what 
it may to climb them whereso the great wall or its 
buttresses are anywise broken down toward our country ; 
but the end of it lieth along our road, as I said, and 
we do but skirt it. A woful wood it is, and save for 
the hunting of the beasts, which be there in great 
plenty, with wolves and bears, yea, and lions to boot, 
which come down from the mountains, there is no 
gain in it. No gain, though forsooth they say that 
some have found it gainful." 

*' How so ? " said Ralph. Said Otter : '' That way 
lieth the way to the Well at the World's End, if one 
might find it If at any time we were clear of Utter- 
bol, I have a mind for the adventure along with thee, 
lad, and so I deem hast thou from all the questions 
thou hast put to me thereabout." 

Ralph mastered himself so that his face changed not, 
and he said : ^' Well, Captain, that may come to pass; 
but tell me, are there any tokens known whereby a 
man shall know that he is on the right path to the 
WeU ? " 

** The report of folk goeth," said Otter, " concern- 
ing one tokeuj where is the road and the pass through 

371 



the Great Mountains, to wit, that on the black 
rock thereby is carven the image of a Fighting Man, 
or monstrous giant, of the days long gone by. Of 
other signs I can tell thee naught ; and few of men 
are alive that can. But there is a Ss^e dwelleth in the 
wood imder the mountains to whom folk seek for his 
diverse lore ; and he, if he will, say men, can set forth 
all the way, and its perils, and how to escape them. 
Well, knight, when the time comes, thou and I will 
go find him together, for he at least is not hard to 
nnd, and if he be gracious to us, then will we on 
our quest But as now, see ye, they have struck oor 
tents and the Queen's pavilion also ; so to horse, is 
the word," 

'^ Tea,'' quoth Ralph, looking curiously toward the 
place where the Qjieen's pavilion had stood ; ^ is not 
yonder the Queen's litter taking the road ? " '^ Yea, 
surely," said Otter. 

''Then the litter wall be empty,'' said Ralph. 
'' Maybe, or maybe not," said Otter ; '' but now I 
must get mt gone hastily to my £oik ; doubtless we 
shall meet upon the road to Utterbol." 

So he turned and went his ways ; and Ralph also 
ran to his horse, whereby was David already in the 
saddle, and so mounted, and the whole rout moved 
slowly from out of Vale Turris, Ralph going ever by 
David. The company was now a great one, for many 
wains were joined to them, laden with meal, and 
fleeces, and other household stuff, and withal there 
was a great herd of neat, and of sheep, and of goats, 
which the Lord's men had been gathering in the 
fruitful country these two days ; but the Lord was 
tarrying still in the tower. 



372 



CHAPTER XL. THEY RIDE TOWARD UT- 
TERNESS FROM OUT OF VALE TURRIS. 

SO they rode by a good highway, well beaten, past 
the Tower and over the ridge of the valley, and 
came full upon the terrible sight of the Great 
Mountains, and the sea of woodland lay before them, 
swelling and falling, and swelling again, till it broke 
grey against the dark blue of the mountain wall. 
They went as the way led, down hill, and when they 
were at the bottom, thence along their highway parted 
the tillage and fenced pastures fi^m the rough edges 
of the woodland like as a ditch sunders field from field» 
They had the wildwood ever on their right hand, and 
but a little way from where they rode the wood thick- 
ened for the more part into dark and close thicket, 
the trees whereof were so tall that they hid the over- 
shadowing mountains whenso they rode the bottoms, 
though when the way mounted on the ridges, and the 
trees gave back a little, they had sight of the wood- 
land and the mountains. On the other hand at whiles 
the thicket came close up to the roadside. 

Now David biddeth press on past the wains and the 
driven beasts, which were going very slowly. So did 
they, and at last were well nigh at the head ojf the Lord^ 
company, but when Ralph would have pressed on still, 
David refrained him, and said that they must by no 
means outgo the Queen's people, or even mingle with 
them ; so they rode on softly. But as the afternoon 
was drawing toward evening they heard great noise of 
horns behind them, and the sound of horses galloping. 
Then David drew Ralph to the side of the way, and 
everybody about, both before and behind them, drew 
up in like wise at the wayside, and or ever Ralph 
could ask any question, came a band of men-at-arms 
at the gallop, led by Otter, and after them the Lord 
on his black steed, and beside him on a white palfrey 

373 » » ^ 



the woman whom Ralph had seen in the Tower, and 
whom he had taken for the Queen, her light raiment 
streaming out from her, and her yellow hair flying loose. 
They pa^ied in a moment of time, and then David and 
llalph and the rest rode on after them. 
• Then said Ralph : " The Queen rideth well and 
hardily." " Yea," said David, screwing his face into 
a grin, would he or no. Ralph beheld him, and it 
came into his mind that this was not the Queen whom 
he had looked on when they first came into Vak 
Turris, and he said : ^* What then ! this woman is not 
the Queen ?" 

David spake not for a while, and then he answered : 
** Sir Knight, there be matters whereof we servants of 
my Lord say little or nothing, and thou wert best to 
do the like." And no more would he say thereon. 



CHAPTER XLI. REDHEAD KEEPS TRYST. 

THEY rode not above a dozen miles that day, 
and pitched their tents and pavilions in the 
fair meadows by the wayside looking into the 
thick of the forest. There this betid to tell of, that 
when Ralph got off his horse, and the horse- lads were 
gathered about the men-at-arms and high folk, who 
should take Ralph's horse but Redhead, who made a 
sign to him by lifting his eyebrows as if he were 
asking him somewhat; and Ralph took it as a ques- 
tion as to whether his purpose held to flee on the 
morrow night ; so he nodded a yeasay, just so much 
as Redhead might note it; and naught else befell be- 
twixt them. 

When it was barely dawn after that night, Ralph 
awoke with the sound of great stir in the camp, and 
shouting of men and lowing and bleating of beasts ; 
so he looked out, and saw that the wains and the 
fiocks and herds were being got on to the road, so that 

374 



they might make good way before the company of 
the camp took the road. But he heeded it little and 
went to sleep again. 

When it was fully morning he arose, and found 
that the men were not hastening their departure, but 
were resting by the wood-side and disporting them 
about the meadow; so he wandered about amongst 
the men-at-arms and serving-men, and came across 
Redhead and hailed him ; and there was no man verf 
nigh to them ; so Redhead looked about him warily, 
and then spake swiftly and softly : ** Fail not to-night 1 
fail not I For yesterday again was I told by one who 
wotteth surely, what abideth thee at Utterbol if thou 
go thither. I say if thou fail, thou shalt repent but 
once — all thy life long to wit." 

Ralph nodded his head, and said : ** Fear not, I 
will not fail thee." And therewith they turned away 
from each other lest they should be noted. 

About two hours before noon they got to horse 
again, and, being no more encumbered with the wains 
and the beasts, rode at a good pace. As on the day 
before the road led them along the edge of the wild- 
wood, and whiles it even went dose to the very thicket. 
Whiles again they mounted somewhat, and looked 
down on the thicket, leagues and leagues thereof, 
which yet seemed but a little space because of the 
hugeness of the mountain wall which brooded over it; 
but oftenest the forest hid all but the near trees. 

Thus they rode some twenty miles, and made stay 
at sunset in a place that seemed rather a clearing of 
the wood than a meadow ; for they had trees on their 
left hand at a furlong's distance, as well as on their 
right at a stone's throw. 

Ralph saw not Redhead as he got off his horse, and 
David according to his wont went with him to his 
tent. But after they had supped together, and David 
had made much of Ralph, and had drank many cups 

375 



to his health, he said to him : ** The night is yet young, 
yea, but new-bom ; yet must I depart from thee, if I 
may, to meet a man who will sell me a noble horse 
good cheap ; and I may well leave thee now, seeing 
that thou hast become a free man ; so I bid thee good- 
night." 

Therewith he departed, and was scarce gone out ere 
Redhead cometh in, and saith in his wonted roi^ 
loud voice : ^' Here, knight, here is the bridle thou 
badest me get mended; will the cobbling serve ?** 
Then seeing no one there, he fell to speaking softer 
and said : '^ I heard the old pimp call thee a free man 
e'en now : 1 fear me that thou art not so free as he 
would have thee think. Anyhow, were I thou, I 
would be freer in two hours space. Is it to be so ? " 

** Yea, yea," said Ralph. Redhead nodded : " Good 
is that/' said he; '^I say in two hours' time all will 
be quiet, and we are as near the thicket as may be ; 
there is no moon, but the night is fair and the stais 
jclear ; so' all that thou hast to do is to walk out of this 
tent, and turn at once to thy right hand : come out 
with me now quietly, and I will show thee." 

They went out together and Redhead said softly : 
** Lo thou that doddered oak yonder; like a piece of 
a hay-rick it looks under the stars ; if thou seest it, 
come in again at once." 

Ralph turned and drew Redhead in, and said when 
they were in the tent again : ** Yea, I saw it : what 
then ? " 

Said Redhead : " I shall be behind it abiding thee." 
" Must I go afoot ?" said Ralph, " or how shall I get 
me a horse ? " " I have a horse for thee," said Redhead, 
** not thine own, but a better one yet, that hath not 
been backed to-day. Now give me a cup of wine, 
and let me go." 

Ralph filled for him and took a cup himself, and 
said : " I pledge thee, friend, and wish thee better 

376 



luck; and I would have thee for my fellow in this 
quest." 

** Nay," said Redhead, " it may not be : I will not 
burden thy luck with my ill-luck . • . and moreover 
I am seeking something which I may gun at Utterbol, 
and if I have it, I may do my best to say good-night 
to that evil abode." 

** Yea," said Ralph, " and I wish thee well therein." 
Said Redhead, stammering somewhat ; '^ It is even 
that woman of the Queen's whereof I told thee. And 
now one last word, since I must not be over long in 
thy tent, lest some one come upon us. But, fair sir, 
if thy mind misgive thee for this turning aside from 
Utterbol ; though it is not to be doubted that the 
damsel whom thou seekest hath been there, it is not 
all so sure that thou wouldst have foimd her there. 
For of late, what with my Lord and my Lady being 
both away, the place hath been scant of folk ; and not 
only is the said damsel wise and wary, but there be 
others who have seen her besides my Lord, and who 
so hath seen her is like to love her ; and such is she, 
that whoso loveth her is like to do her will So I bid 
thee in all case be earnest in thy quest ; and think that 
if thou die on the road thy damsel would have died 
with thee ; and if thou drink of the Well and come 
back whole and safe, I know not why thou shouldest 
not go straight to Utterbol and have the damsel away 
with thee, whosoever gainsay it* For they (if there 
be any such) who have drunk of the Well at the 
World's End are well looked to in this land. Now 
one more word yet ; when I come to Utterbol, if thy 
damsel be there still, fear not but I will have speech 
of her, and tell of thee, and what thou wert looking 
to, and how thou deemedst of her." 

Therewith he turned and departed hastily. 
But Ralph left alone was sorely moved with hope 
and fear, and a longing that grew in him to see the 

377 



damsel. For though he was firmly set on departure, 
and on scelung the sage aforesaid, yet his heart was 
drawn this way and that : and it came into his mmd 
how the damsel would fare when the evil Lord came 
home to Utterbol ; and he could not choose but make 
stories of her meeting of the tyrant^ and her fear and 
grief and shame, and the despsur of her heart. So the 
minutes went slow to him, till he should be in some 
new place and doing somewhat toward bringing about 
the deliverance of her from thralldom, and the meeting 
of him and her. 



END OF VOL. I. 



378 



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